Married by Mistake Chapter 50. Back To The Bay

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Chapter 50. Back to the Bay

The flight south to the college town was decidedly longer than the flight from the southland to north. The commercial jetliner was slower in the air by nearly a third. It was comfortable, but although it was a larger aircraft, the comfort was not nearly the same as when she went north with Tom and the other authors.

Tom. The memory of the name made her sigh and the thought made her wonder if he might be at the Charthouse where he liked to spend time before they met.

*No, he was in England by now, attending Dr. Manga’s installation.* She rubbed her temples. *I’ll have time alone with no temptation to see him.*

The arrival and collection of her bags took a little longer than during the summer trips on the private and chartered planes, when she traveled with Tom. It made her laugh at herself, she was quick to spoil.

The student-artist laughed. The party girl laughed. Most of all, Kaylee laughed at herself.

*‟Spoiled” indeed!* On the south-western coast of the United States, where the sun shines more than not, it was easy to get spoiled, she reminded herself while she walked out of the airport terminal.

A short walk to the nearest taxi, the ride was less than half the distance than the cab-ride when she went home. This time she did not wait to have her door opened, though the driver did motions to open the door for her.  A young man who smiled at her a lot, giving furtive glances and an attempt at a seductive smile.

If she was in the mood, she might have flirted back. But she still wanted to punch someone.

Hard.

And she needed to head back to the martial arts academy for a workout to sooth her stress levels.

She had not been there for over a month, worried that the Guro would forget who she was.

She stretched on the sidewalk in front of the apartment, it had been three hours in seats that moved over the ground or through the air without much room to stand up and get the blood to her legs.

She looked forward to the walks up and down the hills and stairs of the university and then a workout at with hand to hand and sticks at the Serrada academy.

A familiar voice screamed her name as Melanie came flying out the door of the apartment.

‟RING! Tiny! Ring, I want to see it!” Melanie the Monster, kid-sister, excited muppet of Kaylee’s childhood danced on the balls of her feet. Her Taekwondo skills showing. ‟Ring! Now! Woman!”

‟Sorry, no ring.” Kaylee said and told her the story while they walked up the stairs to her home for the last year.

‟What!” Melanie lost her composure when she learned of Glenn’s life-changing event.

‟Tiny!” She used her pet name for her sister. “You dumped Tom for Glenn and then Glenn does that? Did you kick him in the head?” Her eyes sparkled with fury for her sister being wronged. Worst of enemies when they were little, they were the best of friends now. If someone ever made one sister cry, the other sister was like the Erinyes of old and become a sister’s mission to cut the offender’s good life into confetti of wept for distant memories.

‟I did better than that. I made friends with his wife. He will have to become the speaker of the house to make up for it all.” Kaylee laughed. ‟He has a laundry list of makeup chores for the next twenty-years.”

Melanie laughed at this image. Glenn was now a slave to his own life that he had prearranged with a spectacular exercise in carelessness and neglect.

‟What about Tom?” Melanie asked. ‟You, I don’t know what you call it. You…”

“I unmarried him.”

“Ha! That’s a good one. Does he know what has happened? He is going to flip when he finds out.”

‟No, he is in England by now giving a speech.” Kaylee frowned as she fit the key into the lock. The lock felt stiff as if it had not been used enough since she had left for home and the Pacific Northwest.

‟When does he come back?” Melanie smiled, her imagination operated at full speed. ‟I want to talk to him more. Maybe he will teach creative writing at the school? I would so take that class.”

‟What about your boyfriend, David? He’d get jealous if you drool over some old rich man who lives on the ocean and teaches your class.” Kaylee smiled. “Besides, Tom is gone for at least three more weeks.”

‟Yeah! In that float plane!”

‟Flying-boat.” Kaylee corrected. ‟Actually a yacht. You should see the inside of it.”

‟You were married to that! Oh my god, and you gave it all up to be with Glenn and he… and he… Oh my gawd!” Melanie covered her eyes with her hands. ‟I could have had a brother-in-law…”

‟That was almost as old as dad. Pops would have had a stroke.”

‟You don’t know that. I’m serious Kaylee, you gave up a lot to find that Glenn would have cheated on you with some crony.” Melanie sounded exasperated. ‟When I go home for Christmas, I am so gonna kick Glenn around the block. Stupid, stupid boys that walk around with one thing on their minds.”

‟How about having a bowl full?” Kaylee was getting tired of Melanie’s venom towards Glenn.

‟Full?” That turned Melanie ’s attention to another subject. ‟Is it Schroder’s sinsemilla?”

‟Of course!” Kaylee held up a bag. “Fresh from Mr. Schroder’s greenhouse. I couldn’t find my other stash while at home, I think I left it here.”

‟Bummer, it’ll be all shake. Then light the new up, what’s keeping you?” Melanie laughed. ‟But you are still not off the hook for Glenn’s screw-up.”

‟What? Why am I blamed for Glenn’s pinhead problems?” Kaylee laughed. “Besides, I had half-kilo because we don’t get back home enough.”

‟Tiny, welcome home.” Melanie smiled. “You have to pay for the choices you make. Glenn should have done it with you in high-school.”

“We’d all be screwed then.” Kaylee nearly choked on the pipe when her sister suggested that it was a good idea to have gotten pregnant so early in life. “And he still would have gone off to D.C. and knocked her up. If not her, someone else. Glenn is a horn-dog and a pig.  Okay! No more talking about him, we’re finished.”

Laughing, the sisters smoked late into the night. They ordered a party plate from the deli down at the corner and carried the plastic tray back to the apartment and with giggles, smoke and a view of the bay from Kaylee’s balcony.

They caught up on all the tears, laughter and news only the way two sisters could while eating exotic cheeses from the far away lands called Wisconsin and Tillamook.

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Married by Mistake Chapte 49. The Good-Bye Girl

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Chapter 49. The Good-Bye Girl

Fourteen days at home flew past with a blur.

Kaylee in the meantime recharged, recovered from her shock at Glenn’s immature life choice, was packing for the return to Ocean Bay University.

Her dad made her laugh. She had sat with him on a home-made bean bag chair while she smoked a pipe for the first time with the man she always thought was without a clue about life for the young generation.

The old man had more on the ball than Kaylee ever gave him credit for. She always thought of him as an IT nerd-tech that was only involved with himself.

Instead, dad liked Steampunk music, knew a thousand things she never thought possible of his generation.

Funny, it seemed the older she got, the smarter he was. In fact she viewed her father, Charles Achilles “CAG” Grant, as brilliant, funny, talented and wise.

She didn’t tell him about Tom, however. She started a dozen times and Dad shushed her each time.

‟Your past is in your behind.” He said softly.

‟What?” Kaylee looked up at the man who was the standard she held all other men to. ‟Dad? What?”

‟Sorry, that’s good weed.” He gave a crooked smile. ‟Put your behind in your past, you don’t need to talk about it just now.”

‟You mean that I should put what on my butt?”

‟No.” Dad was trying for a serious moment but giggled. ‟What is done is history. Leave it there for now.”

‟Okay.” Kaylee smiled and took another hit off the pipe. Her parents always dealt with Anders Schroder with his home-grown. It was the best weed in the area.

Mr. Schroder grew enough of the best cannabis to sell to the retail outlets, but little more than that. Fully licensed and inspected, Mr. Schroder kept the businesses going with only enough income to keep his bills paid. The old man just liked the beauty of the plant and wished to make clothes out of the hemp fiber he grew from other species. Often telling Glenn and Kaylee that it was better than cotton.

The weed relaxed her and made the heartache of Glenn seem so much smaller than it was.

*At least I’m not pregnant! Pretty sure.* She laughed to herself.

She began to think of that last time on the plane after she came home.

Tom was weak from spending so much time in the hospital bed, she had grown protective of the soul that thought he was her protector. He cautioned her heart to avoid what Tom said in gentle words, ‟Complicate things”.

Another few days home.

An argument over who’s toe-sock was left out on the porch with her brother ended with mom telling them to go put on their socks.

Kaylee came out wearing hers and Mike, with one bare foot and looking sheepish.

While the kid-brother learned to do his own laundry, at dad’s insistence to prepare him for college. Another requirement of the patriarch of the family.

Dad did not care what each of the children wanted to do, but he did require that they earned the highest degree of education available for that interest.

A strong preference for a doctorate, and no one dared defy dad on this point.

Kaylee worried a lot about trying to earn a doctorate in fine arts, a tall order. But dad was motivational and insistent.

That afternoon, while she packed to return to Ocean Bay U., Glenn pulled up in his car.

Alone.

He walked up to the door, intercepted by Kaylee .

‟Don’t you have a life to attend to? Does Sam know you are here?”

‟Yes, she knows. Our mom’s were talking and she found out you were leaving today, she sent me with this.” Glenn held out a small gift, a compass with an email address taped to it.

“Sam wants to pursue a friendship with you.” Glenn’s voice was almost a whisper.

Kaylee was still unsure, her heart still ached after that day. She had found a kindred spirit in Samantha Schroder, but still envious at the same time.

She took the offered present with a smile that she did not feel in her heart.

‟I know I hurt you, if I say it was an accident, it would be an insult to everyone. But it was not planned, I wanted to stay with you.”

‟Do not tell me that, do not let Sam hear you say that.” Kaylee on the verge of rage shook her finger in his face. ‟You want to work as a member of congress élite and a senator’s aide? You put on a face of a happy husband and proud father. You did this with her without thought or precaution, now you have a child. You had better love that baby, or I swear I will kick you so hard you it will take a year for your breastbone to heal. And you know I can. If you ever break up with Sam, I will use you for my flow-drills. You don’t get a stick, you just have to stand there and take it.”

‟Then I’ll send my dad after you, he’s pissed at you as well.” She added.

‟I can see that. He’s standing in the window, looking at me.” Glenn voice trembled with more than a little fear.

Charles Grant stood in the picture window with his arms crossed, a stare like a cougar lining up for a kill for a full minute then stepped out of sight.

For a single moment of shining terror, Glenn thought the old man was coming out.

‟I’ll keep in touch.” He told Kaylee. ‟Maybe we can get together then.”

‟No.” She shook her head. ‟We have our own lives, lived our own way and our own adventures. Good-bye Glenn. I’m sorry this is how it ended.”

She hugged him awkwardly and walked back to the house and closed the door quietly behind her.

And leaned up against it and caught her breath. It was the single hardest thing she had ever done in her life.

And she was still standing strong.

‟Everything all to rights, sweetheart?” The measured tones of her dad entered her world, the old man was sitting in his chair. Two glasses and a bottle of his favorite fifty-year-old rum sitting on the end-table.

‟Oh. Daddy…”

She sat in his lap for the first time in over a decade, the twenty-something woman left the room while the broken-hearted child wept on her father’s shoulder.

Pouring a splash of rum in each glass, he handed one to his sniffling princess.

‟A toast to accidents. Without them, we’d never know where we are in life and where our strength lies. Some are happy, some are sad, a toast to them all.”

‟A happy accident?” Kaylee said after she took a sip of the spiced amber liquid and coughed. The ethanol burning her throat.

‟Yes, if it was not for an accident, I’d never have met your mom.” Her dad said with a wink.

‟She said she met you standing in line at a store.”

‟Pharmacy, for pain medication.”

‟Same thing.” She sipped more of her dad’s treasured rum.

‟Who do you think gave me the pain.”

‟What?”

‟She worked as a bookkeeper at an office and I was running cable for a network. Wireless networking was unheard of in those days. While I crawled by a desk, she opened a drawer over my head.” He rubbed his head of the memory of it. ‟I broke the drawer when I stood up, scalded myself when a coffee cup on the desk spilled down my back.”

Kaylee broke out laughing.

‟Oh my god. She never told me that.”

‟And I wished he never did either!” Mom hid her face in her hand, she had walked in from the back of the house. ‟I nearly killed your dad with a concussion and wrecked our new computer system at the same time.”

‟The coffee went into the server.” Her dad added. ‟It was awful, blood and coffee everywhere.”

‟It looked like someone got slaughtered by a coffee machine.” Mom admitted.

‟I was talking about my shirt.”

‟I was, too.” Linda laughed.

Parents and offspring talked for over an hour, mom and dad told secrets on each other from the time before children while they shared the bottle of rum until it was all gone.

It was a good end to an otherwise miserable day. With three hours to go, the Grant family took their eldest princess to the airport to return to her life back in Ocean Bay University.

Not for the first time in her life, she was looking forward to seeing her sister.

*Wait until Melanie hears the news of how Glenn really changed his life up, never to return to the house without a wife and child in tow.* She shook her head.

During the drive to the airport, Kaylee spent most of the trip looking out the window of the car to the trees that lined the highway. Lost in thought over the last two-weeks.

She wondered if she could just take double classes and never leave the school. It would take a meeting with her mentor and class coördinator.

The world was rainy when she arrived, but it was a rain of promise and excitement, it washed away her doubts from the summer.

Now, it was just grey and wet.

Married by Mistake Chapter 48. The Family Dinner

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Chapter 48. The Family Dinner

Around the Grant dinner table, Kaylee’s appetite returned and she was enjoying the banter between Dad and her mother with Mike, her high-school kid- (Almost no longer a kid!) brother and his girlfriend, the captain of the debate team and vice-president of the chess club where he had met his current romantic interest.

Baked potatoes piled enough for six people instead of the five that sat around.

Finally, the stress of the missing person was too great for Mike to stand and had to ask after the blessing of the food was complete.

“Where’s Glenn?”

Dad gave a soft cough to draw his son’s attention and made a subtle shake of his head.

“It’s okay dad.” Kaylee nodded. “Glenn is married and his wife is pregnant”

Her brother, taking a drink from his cup, shot soda out his nose. The pain bringing tears to his eyes, covered his face to hide the mess.

“What the…”

“Michael!” Mom was quick.

“What is he thinking?” A quick look at his mom. “I wasn’t going to cuss.”

“Yeah, right. Don’t kid a mom, kid.” She fixed him with a look that ended all conversation on the subject.

“When did he tell you about his marriage?” Dad asked. The look in his eyes matched his icy tone.

“Well, he didn’t. I went to his house to surprise him. He wasn’t home and I met his wife, instead.” Kaylee laughed. “Sam, her name is Samantha, told me they had several classes together and dated a few times. They got married two months ago and she is thirty-two weeks along.”

“Oh! Someone was being naughty and got caught.” Mike’s girlfriend, Carrigan said.

“He is an ass.” Charles growled. “He should have known better. He does know better. The entire family over there should take turns beating him with a switch from that willow tree that Anders planted years ago.”

“Dad, she is a nice girl.”

“He’d be a dead boyfriend if I was her dad. Got her life all turned into mangled code.” Dad’s hand squeezed the steel cup he had poured coffee in until it made eerie noises.

“Honey, relax.” Mom said. “You’ll get your blood pressure up, and if you go to the hospital again, it will be because I have thumped you on your head.”

“Yes ma’am.” Dad chuckled with mock terror and released his favored coffee cup.

“So what will he do, now?” Mike asked. “Is he coming home to stay?”

“No, Sam said that they would move off campus and her family will help with the baby. They are will both finish school and Glenn just has to meet with Congressman Millan about a staff position next summer. They’ll move to the Capital to live there, Glenn will get extra credit and he’ll get his degree early. He has an in with the congressman and he’ll get some help with his school costs.”

“The congressman will buy the school books?” Dad shook his head.

“She said that the congress has a special scholarship program for students that get enough hours in as assistants and interns.”

“Fu…” Dad glanced at Ma who was looking straight ahead without blinking. Daring her husband to finish the profanity at the dinner table. “Foolish spending of our tax money! Poli-sci is not served well by those fu.. fools in the capital.”

The one subject that always drove dad to the point of insanity was any conversation about politics and politicians. Glenn never earned CAG Grant’s respect with his interests in politics and his service to congress.

“He should work in the community to better it for the people here, not run off and make a life in a den of snakes.”

“Dad, he has done a lot of good here, why not be happy for him to go to a place where he can do a lot of good for the entire nation?”

“I don’t care if he can’t take care of where he puts his progeny, I’m worried about where he might guide the nation if he cannot take precautions while he’s having a good time.”

“What does his wife have anything to do with it?” Kaylee was still defensive about Glenn, even if she wanted to stand in line to beat him with the willow switch.

“I don’t care about his romantic life. He could stick it in a knothole of a tree for all I care.” Dad’s eyes sparkled with fury. “I have a daughter, TWO daughters! That if a man cannot be trusted with their lives, protect those that trust him, perhaps he shouldn’t have a job and have a chance to fark things up for everyone, everywhere.”

“Charles Achilles!” Middle name. Almost made Kaylee laugh, Mike did and got the back of his head slapped by mom as she walked to her seat.

“Sorry,” Dad laughed in a guilty way. “But I mean it. Accidents happen, but one can choose the safest action to start with. He didn’t care enough to take responsibility and left it solely up to her. That’s wrong. It takes equal responsible effort on both parts, him and her. So how will he lead? Leaving it up to someone else?”

Kaylee thought about it.

“He married her, at least.” Mike was trying to help.

“He should have prevented her pregnancy to start with. If he loved her and chose to have a baby without getting married, that would be fine by me too.” Dad said.

“Charlie, don’t fib.” Linda laughed.

Looking sideways at his best friend and wife, Dad smiled crookedly.

“I’d still beat him. Yeah.” Dad nodded. “But marrying her right after she found out she was pregnant? That is, to me, rather guilty. I would be fascinated to see the spin they put on it.”

“Dad, Grover Cleveland had a kid before he got married.” Mike countered.

Dad took a deep breath.

“Sorry, I won’t get into a history argument with you and I won’t address something that would go off topic. That was another time, another set of rules.” Dad growled.

“Today, Cleveland would have been in prison, had his life ruined, been dragged through the courts.” Dad made his final word on the long-ago President. “Glenn could have that happen to him. I like the boy, but that was a serious wake-up call to pay more attention to his actions.”

“It’s not like other politicians have had kids.”

“And not one of them will become a leader in congress or the president.” Dad nodded. “The most recent events, it is lucky the women didn’t evicerate the men in public. Glenn must have had that thought when you showed up at his door.”

“He wasn’t home when I got there and he didn’t know I went there to see him or that I sat and made friends with Samantha. When he got back from his errands, I surprised him when he walked in the door.”

Dad laughed. Paused. Then laughed again as the mental image played out in his mind’s eye.

“Oh!” Charles Achilles Grant laughed even harder and gave his son a playful punch in the shoulder. “I would have paid good money to have been there and watched that.”

“No. You wouldn’t have enjoyed it very much. It was a little ugly, and it was going to get much worse for him with Sam later.” Kaylee said softly. “Sam and I had a good long talk. She didn’t know anything about me.”

“Oh. Damn.” Linda said and broke her own rule. She was as profane as anyone, but her rule at the dinner table as a cuss-word free zone was a long-established tradition.

Dad laughed again, crossed his arms and leaned back in his seat, he seemed to enjoy the discomfort he imagined for Glenn.

In dad’s opinion, some of life’s lessons are moments best savored.

“I do not wish ill on your Glenn.” Father Grant said in a soft tone of wisdom. “But I think the knowledge bumps that his wife will inflict will show what the man is made of — If he survives.”

Dad pondered a moment. “It might even do him some good in the end.”

Married by Mistake Chapter 47. Kaylee Simone

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Chapter 47. Kaylee Simone

The sound of crunching under the studded tires as Charles Achilles ‟CAG” Grant wheeled into the driveway with his four-wheel-drive Porsche. Dad was not a flashy man, but he enjoyed the German engineered cars since he was a boy, when he got his first ‟Poor man’s Porsche” in the form of a 1958 Karmann Ghia that he had upgraded many times before his regrettable lack of judgement of selling his baby.

It took him many years, but at long last he rediscovered his old car as it sat in a workshop behind the house where the owner had disassembled it to the last bolt and kept a meticulous online blog of each step he took while he rebuilt the ancient car to his personal specifications.

Including a potent computer system that ran most of the car’s systems.

Charles Grant parked his Cayenne in the garage, a tired smile crossed his face. Much as he would have loved to pick up his eldest princess from the airport, the early drive home pleased him and allowed him to miss much of the rush traffic.

He walked to the house, the call of nature driving his stride and he made a beeline to the bathroom after he entered the side-entry to his home. The hour plus drive tended to make him sleepy, so a travel-mug of coffee from the office kept him awake, but also kicked his kidneys into high gear while his foot got heavier on the throttle.

Opening the door after he finished, Charles breathed out the sigh that someone makes after one empties a desperate, absolutely full bladder.

‟Linda? Where’s Kaylee ?” Papa Grant asked after he made a circuit of the first floor of the two-story home.

‟She took my car to go surprise Glenn. She won’t be back for a few more minutes. I told her dinnertime was, well, now in a few minutes.”

‟Your car is in the garage and locked.”

‟Really? I saw her leave, I never saw her come back.”

‟Something’s wrong, then.” Cag said.

‟Oh. Uh-oh.” Mama Grant put down the pan she was cooking in. ‟Charlie, watch my butter crescents. It is a new recipe I have for the new café, we are going to go with a revamped menu.”

‟I can…”

‟There are some things a mom can do that dad’s can’t when it comes to daughters.” Linda kissed him. ‟You are the best dad to walk the earth, but as good as you are. I am still the mom.”

‟Yes, dear.” Dad made a sad smile, a bit put out.

‟Keep saying that, you might get lucky tonight.”

‟Oh! Yes, dear!” He laughed. This was not so bad as he knew this is one serious mom when it came to her daughters.

She found her eldest princess in the back under the gazebo on the porch swing that Charles had put up years before. It became Kaylee’s favorite art place. She had drawn dozens, if not hundreds of watercolor, pastels and charcoal images in the times since.

She had even shared times of smoking weed with her daughter after the princess turned eighteen. Admitting to nothing before her coming of age.

Linda sat next to Kaylee in silence, waited and watched the clouds for fifteen minutes.

‟Glenn is married.” Kaylee said quietly. A sniffle was her only tell of the tears spent on the way home.

‟That explains a lot.” Mom said. ‟It was like his mom fell of the face of the earth since Glenn arrived home. She was not calling me or stopping by. Now I know why.” Linda frowned nodded. “They have kept it under wraps, no one has talked about seeing anyone new in town.”

‟He has a baby coming.”

‟Oh, damn.” Linda boggled and put her arms around her eldest daughter. “He never told you?”

‟He didn’t have to. She answered the door because he wasn’t home yet.” Kaylee said softly.

‟Oh crap.” Mom covered her mouth in shock. “Oh crap, what an introduction!”

‟It was awkward, but she is nice and, well, big pregnant.” Kaylee ’s eyes glistened with tears. The rain had returned with sprinkles, the drops sounded a soft staccato of rhythm on the awning and grass around them. ‟Then she invited me in for coffee and we had a long talk. She is due in six-weeks.”

‟She wasn’t a nasty to you or strut like a tramp? I’ll have a word with Glenn’s mom.”

‟No. In fact, she was very nice.” Kaylee shook her head. ‟She brews a strong cup of coffee and is delightful to talk to. She told me how she and Glenn had been on and off. Then she forgot her pills on a trip and went a month without them.”

‟Well, that was not very smart.” Mom shook her head and spoke in tones of support.

‟No, especially while with Glenn, he is irresponsible.” Kaylee laughed sadly. ‟She didn’t say that, but I don’t need a treehouse to fall on me.”

‟She and Glenn have a much closer lifestyle than he and I do.” Kaylee ’s voice nearly a whisper. ‟They share many more interests, majors and friends. I have more in common with Tom Harte.”

Mom slowly stroked her daughter’s hair as her eldest leaned on her shoulder and wept quietly. The broken heart of a child leaking out on the blouse of the grown mother.

‟What if you go back and spend time with that cartoonist?”

‟Novelist.” Kaylee said. ‟Mom, I could use a bowl about now.”

‟Well, your dad has been busy. You just need to go to the tree over there. That bird house built into the side of the tree?”

Kaylee stood and went to beautiful, meticulous crafted miniature A-frame and pulled on it.

‟No. Honey. Push it into the tree.”

She pressed with the flat of her hand on a post of the porch, populated with pine cone trolls, the house slid in on polished metal rails, exposing twin finger-holes.

She smiled at the craftsmanship and pulled out when instructed to do so by her mom, the trunk of the tree opened with a drawer, custom fitted with a glass pipe set and four slots for the stash.

‟Oh my gawd!” Kaylee laughed. ‟When did he do this?

‟The tree splintered in a storm, dad did a lot of work, taking off branches and fixing the trunk with glues and screws. But he made a treasure box to fit in the trunk and saved the tree in the process, it still grows.” Linda looked at the big coastal sequoia.

‟These are not a pirate’s treasure.” Kaylee told her mom as she looked over the uncovered storage compartments.”

‟Pick one of the pipes, you will find those are all treasures.” Mom grinned. “Hand carved snakewood, that white one is a dragon-claw, there are two small water pipes.”

The two women laughed and smoked while they remained safe and dry under the covered swing while the storm clouds brought more rain.

‟You know, mom.” Kaylee felt better after a few minutes. ‟It’s a good thing you are cooking dinner. I think I am going to have a good appetite.”

Mom gasped.

‟My DINNER!” Jumping up with a string of profanities. ‟I left your dad in charge. He’ll try and help out. The last time, he turned a simple spaghetti dinner into a seven course disaster!”

Kaylee laughed and laughed while her mom ran. Mom was so funny when she smoked.

Of course it had nothing to do with Kaylee smoking, but that also made her laugh, too. Locking up the weatherproof stash box, Kaylee followed after her mother and joined her inside the house for a rescued dinner.

Her dad was an accomplished cook and yes, sometimes he did get carried away.

This made Kaylee laugh again as she made her way to the house in her mother’s wake, the pain of Glenn no longer a wound that made her weep.

*Mom’s are great.*

Married by Mistake: Chapter 1. Broken Morning Breaks

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Chapter 1: Broken Morning Breaks

Beep! Beepbeepbeep. Her phone squealed to life, cacophony of lights and alarms to alert that her day had begun.

Annoying damned electronic, cruel, noisy gift from her sister.

She already had a headache from her studies until well after midnight. She even studied in her dreams with books and notepads that chased her.

Frustration.

This was today’s name for Kaylee Grant.

Then, her day went from bad to worse.

“Oh, god.” She was out of coffee. No tea, either. What a miserable day.

But then, she hated all mornings that started before noon.

Next experience part of the pre-coffee day, a broken shoelace.

She retied the lace on her work-shoe took more time than she had allowed and was now late, Kaylee stumbled to her car with a loose shoelace and discovered that someone had gone down the block and slashed everyone’s tires.

Vandalism that included her tires.

Two flat tires! Twenty minutes drive, no car and now she was late for work.

Even Melanie, her sister who lived in the apartment below her had already left for school. Finals week, and Melanie ate breakfast at school while she studied up to the last-minute.

Kaylee had final scheduled before noon and needed to go to work to get a few hours on the clock.

Even when she called in, the manager told her that there was no one to cover her tables for the breakfast rush and she had to make it – or else.

Even if she showed up late, was not enough, he paid her cash and invited her to find employment elsewhere as a waitress, barista and bartender.

Being fired just Set the mood for the day, and Melanie still did not answer her phone, so she needed to walk the five miles to class at Ocean Bay University for the Arts and was unable to focus on her finals, time and again she tried to name off the six traits that identify the Severe Style and only sigh. It was a lost cause, she could name off the pages and chapters of the book where the traits where documents, even the paragraphs. But the traits were a blank spot in her memory.

Of the two pages of essay test, she could only answer half of them. The Professor walked slowly around the room and watched the students write – and professor became curious to her anxiety and told her to put the test down and to see him later.

*Yeah, later.* She hated that thought.

In his office he would grant that she passed the test, but only after she agreed to pose for him.

“To paint you.” he said.

*Oh, Yeah. I bet.*

A nude pose, while she held a phallic symbol of a banana was the probable setup.

She passed on that offer.

Early in the day, it was still before noon, so she chose to take her frustrations out at the academy of martial arts and get some time in practice for her Guru Level in Eskrima Serrada.

While she warmed up, she dropped her rattan stick three times, fell twice and tossed the weapon across the room once. The Guru of the school gave a gentle laughed and worked out with her.

The flow drill was awful. She could not get the speed at first, at last she achieved what she considered a proper workout, and she disarmed the Guru after an hour. Still and all, her performance was below her level and she was not able to focus.

“Go home and relax. You are way off today.”

His words, meant to comfort her, only served to enrage her soul further.

“To hell with it, I’ll go to the beach!” She said to herself and took her bag with towels and swimsuit out of the closet and a bottle of water to drink from the fridge.

One job termination, one failed test at the university that her parents paid a hefty price for and now the Guru all but patted her on the head and told her it would be all right.

THAT pissed her off.

Patronized by the Guru that she respected above anyone in the academy, well, except for the GrandMaster when he came to town.

She hiked the two miles to the beach and she moved through the angles of her martial art in her thoughts. Angry as she was, she imagined using her bare hands to beat someone into submission for a change.

She should beat anyone who took advantage of her unfortunate moments.

Sitting at the top of the to-do list, she wanted to find and beat the dirt-bag that cut her tires.

Everyone’s tires and left her with no one to even ask for a favor in that early hour. It promised to be a lot of money she did not have to replace those tires, now without a job, she would have to call dad. Not even her sister had money she could borrow to buy tires.

She took a deep breath and let it out in a slow controlled exhale. Maybe she could buy used tires? At fraction of the cost of new treads on the car, it still took a bite out of her budget.

And budget woes brought her back. Back to the thoughts to inflict pain on selected people.

Pain to people who cut the tires of her car, pain to professors that wanted little more than to have her stand on a stage, naked.

She wanted time with the Guru who – Well, she liked him, he always treated her well and she did not want to cause pain to him. Still, she wanted to disarm him and toss him around the padded floor for a change, like he had done with her at the Academy of the Filippino Martial Art.

Kaylee Grant, waitress, barista, bartender, sun-worshipper, peaceful college student wanted to beat someone with her fists, sticks and feet until they cried.

She walked along the sidewalk to the beach more than ten-thousand feet distant. Her mind worked out the math, while her artist’s soul sought the beauty in the world while she thought and measured of how she might draw or paint this tree or that mall.

The walk to the beach had the effect to sooth her spirit and gave her time to become introspective, she pondered about a change in her major. Three years in this school and change?

*Unwise.* She shook her head. *Better to stick it out, now. If I have to tell Pops that he was up for an extra couple years of tuition for studies? That would create a family storm I have no desire to cause.*

Dad, a good man, but she had seen him lose his temper with people over the years. A rare occurrence, but even the mayor of her home town backed down at a council’s open forum while her dad (Then the city manager.) and the mayor clashed.

Kaylee walked on, her white-knuckled hold on her beach-bag slowly relaxing to something less than a death-grip, the sunshine and beach already having the effect of calm and relaxation she needed.

And she did not even have her toes in the sand yet.

And on a personal note: Three hundred miles.

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Long hours of driving, to the biggest little city in the world to visit Mama Dash.

Mom is doing better, a needle slid into the fractures of her back and injected a plastic glue has stabilized the back of the lady whom I  am proud that she will call son.

Her strength and muscle mass has greatly suffered from her last ten-days in a hospital bed.  So now, she tries to use a walker while taking steps.  The first effort was agonizingly slow.

Her greatest effort is to just sit up.  So she will be going to a rehab facility, we have hopes it will be a short stay.   The room she stays in is in Sister Sledgehammer’s home.  There is very little space for her to use a walker in her room.  Overall the house is okay, but the bed-wall clearance is quite small.

Now, after working on that round of ideas and thoughts, Sister Sledge has brought the eleven-year-old uncle-napper and we sat together for some minutes.

With a few nods and winks with Princess #1.  We invited Sister (I am going to have to come up with more names.  I have 4 sisters! One brother who I have not nearly as much contact with as I would like)  who is 11 year old’s mom, to come out to my car.

I made a gift of the lightweight recurve bow, a fingertab I sat up last night and designed for her hand. She walked around the hospital room rattling the fingertabs whilst tied to her finger. LOL

So the day was successful. Got to see mom, got to see dad. Saw two sisters.

And made a pre-teen dance with joy. She promised me she would shoot every day. (I have no doubts) and she also admitted to not started the little story I asked for. (Get her brain exercised during the summer break.) one to two pages of a story about anything she would like.

I would also put it here, with her pen name. (Only eleven, I won’t put her real name out. )  So she seemed excited.  BUt I think it was short-lived. She is far more interested to make the tiny, pointy sticks fly than write. ;o lol.

So let’s send good thoughts to Mama Dash, to the Zombie Snowman in the back yard. And one happy preteen that will shoot her heart out.

For now, I am tired.  I have an achy back, too many hours standing and driving. I cannot sit still.  So I am going to lay down.

Arrival Home, Dogs go Ape.

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A week in Reno and surrounding area while I stayed at the sister’s house while she has about a pound of hardware that held her ribs together from her event of a (Near) Total Body Crunch.

Papa Dash had a surgery. Officially “Outpatient.” but it took 4 days from Friday to Monday before I took the old warrior home. (To my sister’s house where he was staying for the time being with Mama Dash who has her own issues. More on her later.)

So, we have one family member in the hospital for surgery, lasting until Monday, to which sister goes in for surgery, the SAME day. 0.o Okay… We can handle this. I stay at her house, sleeping on the sofa- and I am pounced by a lonely 11-year-old girl who falls in love with Archery– and we shoot until my arms fall off.

Meanwhile Mama Dash who has ongoing back pain -pain that no one can seem to track down- hurts her back again after twisting while sitting on the foot of the bed.  A sudden swelling on the vertebra below the line of the shoulder blades was palpable. *sigh* Mark it with a felt tip pen and let’s go to the ER and get it evaluated. Probably a torn muscle related to the previous pain. Possibly related?  A disk rupture? I don’t know, only an x-ray to find out. I don’t have such installed in my fingertips.

At the ER, things go from bad to worse and the Emergency Doctor transfers Mama Dash to a medical center for comprehensive testing and followup – possibly with an oncologist.

So now, papa Dash is not eating (“Everything Tastes BITTER. I have to force myself to eat.”  … Um, okay.  But overdosing on fruit is unwise. And it came to pass… that yup.  Too many banana’s, etc etc.  Do make things run faster. And RUN is what he does, get the heck out-of-the-way!)

Sister came home on Friday, 11-year-old did the archery with me on the last day and then Xbox to 1:45 in the freakin’ morning when she learned mom was well enough that it was time for me to go home.

But I could not tell her “no” or go to bed. We have had a good time this week and she is lonely with a 15-year-old sister with a social life and friends with cars. Dad is working overtime to cover costs of deductible and copay. Mom is in the hospital, so is gramma, grampa is with gramma.

That leaves the weird uncle with the pointy sticks and bows.  We built the Zombie Snowman (our name for it.) and shot uncountable times. Even got the 15-year-old sister to spend time with us.  She is also hooked. Lol. they have a JOAD team in the school, so I will have some competition next time I go there. lol.

Then time to go home.  A three-hour tour of the beautiful mountains with big clouds and occasional showers. Cool temps, taking deep inhales of cedar, redwood, pine scented high mountain air with a touch of lightning to scent it all.

Then I dive down into the Big Valley. (Look up the TV series of the same name with Barbara Stanwyck, Lee Majors, Richard Long, Linda Evans and Peter Breck) and into the heat. Blech.. I’ll go back to Nevada where the temps are cooler.

BUT!

The dogs start bouncing.  Honey the honey colored dog sits on me, Hershey the Chocolate labrador just pushes her way in. there is no such thing as a still hand. You can put it on her head, scritching does not get it, must MUST be a pat and rub.

Honey, she has her tongue out. Palm wide, two palms long.

“Human, you have been missing, I have to coat you in my saliva to make it better.”

Hah. She sits on me for awhile then goes to lay down in the coolest part of the house- a hardwood floor with a breeze.

Later, I walk outside to water the corn, sunflowers, and pumpkins.  She is watching me so I stomp my foot at her in the universal play language of dogs. “Gonna get you!”

She is “Game ON! Human-who-has-been-missing! Attack!”

Suddenly my arms, hands, feet, legs, are her personal chew toys, she hits me in the chest time and again while I put her into a head lock.

This goes on for a few minutes, then it is off to grab a toy and dance out of my reach every time I try to take it from her to throw.

I assume she wants me to throw it.  But then she keeps it away, until I ignore her then she jumps close and barks at me with a muffled “Woof”.

It is fun to have been missed. So now she sleeps with her head on my foot. her body half in-half out the sliding glass door.

That really looks uncomfortable over the threshold.

Anyway.  waiting for reports on the scans on Mama Dash, Papa Dash has agreed to eat more lean protein and get some complex carbs in.  I suggested Archery (I think I covered that before) but it won’t come to pass, so long as mom is in the hospital.  Food yes.  Archery? Yeah…not so much.

On well.  Honey dog just decided to drop a ball on me and is wagging her tail.  I have to throw it before she starts barking.

Then back to writing that I have been circumvented by an eleven year old who is lonely during the summer. (all her friends went out-of-state and the one that’s left is “always busy”)

I’ll post something soon.

Not counting my High Mountain Adventures.

your fave Up and Coming Author

Dash

Differential diagnosis. Or, how do you wish infection on anyone?

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On Weds. it started out with some fun.  the teenager and the nearly teenager went out and we shot the zombie snowman.

Archery Burst01-ANIMATION

 

Lots of fun, this is the “animated’ version.  No video can be uploaded, but you can see the 11-year-old is having a good time.

We had 15-year-old sister with her compound, also having wonderful laughter.  They both would boggle, as i’d shoot and call where the arrows would hit. And hit where I said.

(Psst, I just got lucky a couple of times)

Their ride arrived to take them to martial arts, and away they went. With their mom (My sister) in the hospital after getting plates removed from her previously broken ribs (A total body crunch a few years ago, fictionalized in the story “2 seconds…”) has an infection that now appears to be staph aureus infection and she is on two antibiotics every four hours. I have asked her if it is MRSA, but as of last night she didn’t know. But it is being stubborn.

This leads me to believe I am in Nevada for a longer period of time.

Mama Dash, she twisted her back yesterday (Thus the lack of posting) and something “popped” I palpated her back and found a lump that she and my father said was new.

“Okay, give me a pen.” and I circled it. “Now we go to the ER, if you tore something, it needs to be evaluated and I do not have the tools here. PLUS an Rx for pain.”

Well, she broke a vertebra.  0.o … Otherwise healthy people do not beak bones by twisting while getting ready for a shower.

*sigh* You ever see storm clouds on the horizon and know they’re headed your way?

Yup.

A quick trip to the emergency room and some five hours later, the doctor pulls Papa Dash and myself side.

“Could be an infection but the worse case scenario, multiple myeloma.  It is a kind of bone cancer. So we need to send her to a medical center that has comprehensive testing and personnel abilities.”

So an hour’s drive to Reno to the medical center there for testing.  We were there a long time. Papa Dash and I got home about 2:00 AM.

The up side, sister sledgehammer is about 5 doors down from mom.  Even if sister is under the antibiotic infusion, she can still trundle it alongside her like a nightmarish version of a high-tech pet.

I am going to have to leave you now, and finish this update later.  There is an 11-year-old future Robin Hood in training that is pacing back and forth with a bow in hand. She needs to go out .

Remember my authoring friends.  WRITE ON!  Woot!

And my readers?  Read all you can, laugh live love  and send some my way. 😉 Buy a book? Give me an opinion? Like it? I am pleased. 😀

I need some good news. I have never wished an infection on anyone, but I prefer mom has an infection over the alternative.

Dash

 

Fire: The Oasis

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Fire: the oasis

He had worked his way up through the ranks of wildland firefighting. Part-time, seasonal, and then full-time, taking classes when they came out. He excelled with his motivation. Reibold Rasmussen was never much of one to laugh, his humor always kind of quirky.

But he feared fire since a child. His house caught fire when a car ran into the garage. Dad scooped him up with his two sisters and ran like a like an Olympic sprinter through the back door that mom held open, returning for the dog that was still in the house, barking behind the armored bars that covered the windows.

The deep boom of something rupturing in the house blew the door shut. Dad, hit the door going in like a human  freight-train breaking it off the hinges as he did so. Then appeared with the unconscious Great Dane in his arms.

Zeus the Dane, famous for his deep bark in the neighborhood would live to be Reibold’s best friend for years to come, except for the bald patch on one ear, he suffered no injuries in the fire.

In the years to come, the son of the family hero did the father proud. Firefighter of the year, EMT then a Paramedic. Finally becoming a Wildland Firefighter and traveled around the country, where the job needed or where classes could be 

His own son looked up to him, now seven-years of age, Nicholas watched for dad on every news report of forest fires.

The memory made Reibold smile as he touched the drawing of a heart with the three family members inside. “Team Rasmussen” in a child’s writing. He kept it for luck, taped to the inside of his locker door.

Well, not for luck. He just loved his son.

“Vegetation fire.”  The dispatch went out calling upon the men and women that were the foot-soldiers in the yearly dry-season battle of protecting life and property.

Reibold the father was different from Lieutenant the smoke jumper and a hand crew leader for ground fire attack in the forests. Glittering blue eyes missed little and showed a high intelligence with a quick wit that on occasion was misunderstood by his peers, often that making him laugh even harder at his singular wit that only his son might catch.

Today, in a parking lot barely large enough to hold all the equipment, the “Mountain Mike’s” shopping plaza became a wildland command center. The fire plan posted locations of the rest of the fire teams and equipment around the valley in the pockets of school grounds and church parking areas.

Weather reports came in and sent out from the command center, plotters predicted on the weather service map predicted that unpredictable winds with a low pressure system moving in.

Reibold sighed as he read the dispatch on the computer aided dispatch display, called a CAD for short. No part of the display was good news. 

A low pressure system meant a reasonable possibility of rain which would help. However the downside with the heat rising from the large wildfire could create thunderstorms. Lightning! By any measure, this would work against the fire campaign. The fuel for the fire, the wood and grass in the forest with months of heat and sun, became explosively dry.

By noon, dressed in his fire-resistant gloves, jumpsuit and helmet. They flew in by helicopters to an oasis at the foot of a mountain for a mission. Condor Mountain was the local name of the tall peak, at the base of this high desert rock was an oasis of fresh water that sprang naturally from bedrock artesian wells.

Today’s Mission: Create a fire break and save the oasis of palm trees and protected wildlife refuge.

The Plan: First arriving hand crews would clear back the light grass and brush before the arrival of the bulldozers that were on their way. The large equipment slow speed meant a delay of four-hours behind the hand crews.

Reibold lead his twelve-man crew while they cut and tossed brush to create a path that connected natural firebreaks around the oasis.

Sweating heavily under the unrelenting sun, the breeze began to pick up, alarming Reibold a little. The fire was on the far side of the mountain, some fifteen miles distant, but it could cover that distance faster than many people would think. 

Still, the fire observation radio code “Airboss” that flew in the two-seat spotter plane in circles kept reports coming in about the fire that threatened the mountain. Orders came from the Airboss to pull all personnel off the threatened side of the mountain. The fire was moving too quickly to stop it before they finished building a firebreak and fire command ordered the effort abandoned.

Reibold nodded; This put the pressure on Bravo-Team to save the oasis. Airboss just wrote off the mountain.

Bulldozers arrived and cut a line wider than an interstate, hand crews cleaned up the edges of the firebreak. A call of team leaders and Reibold answered.

Standing with the other leaders, each with a book out as the plans for the next effort of defending the line.

“Fight fire with fire.” Was the plan, a backfire would to burn up the close face of the mountain to the top. The speed of the mission was critical with the weather system moving in. Agreed and commanded, the leaders adjourned to their respective crews.

The planned backfire had the fire crews stand in line along the firebreak. Three bulldozer blades wide, down to bare mineral soil. Reibold stood his twelve firefighters in line. Ax’s, shovels, gloves and face wraps against the dust and heat.

The radio crackled with the “Go hot” with the order of the backfire. Two officers walked along the fire break with drip torches filled with diesel. Flames consumed the brush next to the bare mineral soil like a teenage boy consumes food from mom’s pantry.

A lot of heat came off the backfire. Too much! Lt. Rasmussen turned around and looked at some of the palm trees behind them.

The radiant heat was enough to force his crews look away from the flames and protect their faces. The firefighters watched for embers to prevent the fire from jumping the line, but Reibold had the angle to view directly behind them. And he saw it, a half-dozen tendrils wafting towards the main backfire the trees were smoking!

“Shovels! SHOVELS! Throw dirt on the trees! Cool the trees down!” Lt Rasmussen called.

“Too much fire, too much heat!” Another Lt. Yelled at the Forest Ranger in charge of the torch, who walked along the line.

Grabbing his radio, Reibold called and reported that the fire was flaring up too hot. The radiant heat off the mountain’s face was putting them and the oasis they were to protect in jeopardy. Bark on trees was smoking and they needed back pumps with water and shovels of dirt to stop the smoking trees from catching fire.

A flame, not large, grew rapidly up the trunk of a coconut palm. Extending its reach up to the dried and hanging palm fronds that hung down like hands. Paper thin, tinder dry.

Reibold lifted up his radio to his mouth. “Emergency traffic, zone 6, crew 4488. Fire in the trees, crowning fire.”

The worst words possible, “crowning fire”.

The first tree lit like a match, three officers and the Forest Ranger all nodded and gave orders to their crews.

“We are bugging out.” Reibold sounded as if he was ordering a burger at a leisurely pace in contrast to the stress he felt. “All crews in zone 6 pull back to fire safety zones. We have lost the oasis.”

“RUN! RUN!” The Fire supervisor yelled to the dozen men and women that carried hand tools. A wind was building and blew in their faces.

Behind them the flames from the one burning tree hit the dried palm fronds of the line of trees and like a match that ignited in a matchbook. The gale force wind became a hurricane wind of heat and grit, drawn in by the column of fire and smoke that rose up into the atmosphere. The fire made its own weather had produced the winds that rushed to feed the intensity of the firestorm 

Lt. Rasmussen fought his way with the increasing wind that tore at his clothing, he tried to protect his face with the shovel, only to have it torn from his grip by the screaming wind that fed the monster that ate tree, bush and flower.

Although it was midnight, Reibold could see his shadow was visible on the ground as he looked down.

Looked down?

Wait, what? LOOKED DOWN!?

The fire was right above him, moving faster than a man can run!

Another gust of wind– picking up stones the size of his fist– pelting him as he and the crew struggled against the breath of the devil, the radiant heat was making the back of his uniform overheat.

Finally! Cresting the hill into a parking lot, he stumbled over the edge to the asphalt of the parking area. The heat on his back did not let up, the backs of his gloves were smoking, the insulated leather was hot enough to sear the back of his hand, flames blew vertically up into the sky at the Lieutenant’s heals. Screams echoed in the parking area.

Running feet. Hands, many hands..

The sudden, unbelievably cold feeling on his back..someone had dumped a bucket of water on him as the pain set in and he blissfully, quietly let the soft darkness of shock and coma take him into sweet unconsciousness.

Days later, Reibold awoke. His Commanding officer was sitting in the chair near him with eyes half-shut.

Steve?” Reibold’s voice croaked more than it should have, surprising himself. His throat felt like he had gargled with salt and broken glass.

“Reibold? Sheesh, man you have us a hell of a scare! You were the last one out and came over the crest into the staging area with the fire at your heels. ” Steve Womack sat forward. “You were on fire, brother. Your web gear, fire tent and the helmet you were wearing were smoking and your helmet is half-melted.”

Reibold sat back into the bed. “Did we lose anyone?”

“No, your call on the trees was just in time. We lost the oasis, but no one died.”

“When do I blow this joint?” asked the Lieutenant. “I’m not that hurt and my son will be worried.”

“In a while, you had inhaled a lot of smoke. Your voice still sounds like a rusty gate, they had you on a ventilator for two days.” The Commander explained the timeline. “Your son has been here with your wife. There is something on your hand. And Rei, brother, you have been in a drug induced coma for the last few days. Don’t expect to come back soon. Go home, be with the boy, love the family and let them love you for a few weeks.”

“Aye, I can feel it. Steve,” He sighed.“I feel this is my last year. I’m going to request a transfer to investigations.”

“Granted. I’ll put the paperwork in straight away.”

Reibold the Lieutenant soon-to-be-investigator laid back on his bed and closed his eyes.

Slipping back to that moment where he knew, the call to abandon the oasis was the right one.

Looking at his hand, a heart drawn on it and in a child’s lettering. 

“DADS A HERO!” was visible. 

The hero of a  seven-year-old smiled. The boy was right, 

Today, Reibold Rasmussen felt he made the heroic choice.

No one died.

Reject! Reject! Reject! If you so much as say “huh?” yer alone.

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Once again I screwed up the courage to do something new. The last time I was turned down, it took me a year to try again.

Married by Mistake was deemed to be intriguing but unworthy, but worry not, I am not tossing this into the trash, it will be polished (again) and a home found for it.

*Sigh*. Chaotic is how I write I guess. I developed it to a failure on “Flee” (currently being rewritten as well to shine the way it should), and the style may have spilled over into the romance story.

I don’t know. But it is back to the manuscript and trying to polish a..ermm… dirt clod. Something I thought was polished enough, had enough humor in it, a touch of sex, some chocolate (Same scene), fun and adventure, heartbreak, drugs, Mom’n’Dad and an idiot boyfriend. (I’m a dad of 2 princesses, all boyfriends are idiots until proven otherwise).

Perhaps I may need a critique team?  Someone, when I have been up late at night too many times I have gone blind to using ten-dollar words and going off into the land of confusion, will send back “Huh?”

Seriously, I do know I get a bit blind after the second or third edit, perhaps I am not that great of a storyteller- except I have so many stories to tell and they demand to be written.

If I don’t?

I pace, get grumpy, I live in the world anyway.  I shoot my bow and have conversations with the characters that want their story told.  Sometimes they stand in line.

Sometimes they argue.  Ever see a pre-teen child pirate from the 17th century argue with a 21st century college student and have the 24th century captain-paramedic want to talk about his patient that fell off a roof?  I have.

Even now, they are waiting – impatiently – while I look Married by Mistake over and over, while re-writing Shock and Awe.  (And writing this in the meantime.)

At any rate, test audience, anyone interested? Get the chance of an assembled and proposed for submission.  I know often the stories I post here are so raw as to reek, then, of course, they tend to go away after a bit as the chapters are re-written and assembled (Some deleted) and the pattern as a whole changes, including sometimes the names of the protagonists or antagonists. *shrug* Such is the world of editing. Right?

Ah well, back to re-writing, reading and editing, trying to figure out how to make a romance of a college student that is facing how to explain to her parents 1. That she got drunk, then married during the party that she does not remember.  2. How to deal with the situation of a fiance back home (Actually goes to Mt. M University) 3. Should she introduce the husband-by-accident to her parents.  I have alluded to, but i don’t think, he is older than the parents. 4. Should it have more sex-and-chocolate scenes?

*Sigh*

Anyone interested in having a chance to read before-the-submission manuscripts?

The more the merrier.

Back to editing Married by Mistake, needs the hooks polished…or written in.

A Boy, His Dog and a Sunday

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Call me WeWa, it is my handle on most forums, short for Welhelm Wassail, IV.  I am a black-hat computer cracker, coding to me is easy, I see patterns, and I am so intuitive on passwords, they banned me from being around computers or even having an internet accessible mobile phone by order of the Judge.

Alas, not even my near-perfect grades could sway Her Honor as she sat on the bench and yelled at me for using the school’s library computer to divert fractional pennies of taxes to an anonymous bank account offshore in the Virgin Islands. Two-hundred bank accounts, they will never find it all.

My dad is quite angry, he can no longer telecommute and needs to leave the house to do work. His official office is a seventy-mile trip, one way.  So he has rented a small space somewhere in town just for the internet.

He says a coffee shop is noisy and distracting.

Pfft. I could open a hundred accounts and flip through them in the time to drink a single mocha.

Old folks are so easy to distract.

So they punish me!  No friends over, I am grounded until the end of the school year, then I have to work for my mom’s office as a file clerk.

Their company is still in the stone age. They even still use DOS!

So they leave me home today, Sunday.  I have the back yard to mow, the dog to wash and dishes to put away.

While they go to an afternoon of wine tasting with some friends. This totally sucks, I have to stay home while they have fun!

Seriously.

So I wash Randall, a curly coated labrador and my only friend, he has no mean bone in his body. My friend Richard, his dog is a big Airedale that is frightening just by smiling, and that dog SMILES.

Rich’s dog is all teeth when he pulls those lips back, and he is not mean. Randall? He looks like he is smiling all the time. The only animals he chases are the birds that try to get his food out of the bowl.

I scrub him and he is all excited about being in the water, he is not so keen on the tile of the shower, but he jumps around, trying to escape and I am as wet as he is.

At least there is no wet dog smell, the shampoo that mom bought is a kind of cinnamon scent.  So it’s not bad. I liked the eucalyptus one best they had before.

So, I change clothes and leave Randall in the house to go outside to mow the back yard, by the time I get to the second pass, Randall has banged the screen door open and is rolling in the fresh-cut grass, right were I went with the mower.

God hates me, too! Dogs, God, Mom, Dad, Judge Judy Justice, no one has a bit of care that I can do so much with a keyboard.

Except the military dude that talked with my dad and handed him a card.  That scares the urine out of me.

By the time I got finished mowing the lawn, Randall is running around the yard as fast as those legs can go, he can do at least THIRTY! For a lab, he is fast.

He is really funny, running and rolling.  I try to chase him a few times, but that dog can change direction faster than the blink of an eye, it is humanly impossible to catch him.

So, chase time is over, and Randall is still making laps, I need to get the lawn watered and go inside to wash my wet clothes and the sweaty ones I have on.

I set the sprinkler and turn on the water, looking around the side of the house and Randall is racing around in the water. (I did mention that he is a labrador? A curly coated one at that, he LURVES the water.)

I walk back, the sliding screen door is standing open where he got out and did not put it back ( I need to train him on that one, still).

Then.

OMG!

THEN! Randall sees me coming and grabs up the hose with the sprinkler!

NO! NO NO! Bad DOG!

He is running around with it and I can’t catch him. I’m not even sure Carl Lewis could, even if he drank a quadruple espresso and ate two snickers bars.

So, I have yelled at the dumb dog and what does he do?

He runs INTO the house!

WITH THE SPRINKLER!

NOOOooooo!

I grab up the hose and try to drag it back out.  Randall now thinks it’s a game of tug-o-war.

NOOO! Water is running, sprinkler is spraying, I weigh a buck-and-a-half, Randall is a buck-twenty.

In my animal husbandry class in sophomore year, I remember the teacher saying dogs are like three times stronger than people.

It takes a long time for me to yank the hose out of his mouth.

I’m a smart kid, really I am.  But WHY did I not just kink the hose or turn it back off?

I don’t know. My only defense, I panicked.

The clean up of the house took me so long, my whole body ached. Mom came home and I had reruns of “Twilight Zone” on the cable channel that does marathons of different series’.

It was all I could watch, my mind was numb, my fingers were numb, my back hurt, my feet hurt, my clothes were all in the wash, or the dryer.

Dad commented that the house looked good, I was busy.

Yeah, and dad? I used your shop-vac to dry the sofa, too.

Mom told me to get off my lazy butt and fold my laundry and put it away.  It was so not fair, I could hardly stand up.

But then, she also said the house looked and smelled good.

Oh! And Randall? He didn’t come out of the dog house for three days after I yelled at him.

It ain’t easy being me.

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 5. Reunion

Children of Fury:Hellions
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Chapter 5. Reunion

The moon had not yet set when the two ships quietly rounded the headlands of the bay.

Blackfish and Lir slid into the bay next to two dark ships.

Dark, but not asleep.

On board the Wrath and Scorned crews sat and watched the illuminated ships come close.

A young man’s voice called out, hailing the dark ships.

A woman’s voice answered.

“Mon Dash?” Then a squeal of recognition and applause, Annamarie’s favorite youth had returned as promised.

Cheers erupted and they stowed the guns. The reunion of adoptive big sisters and their crew erupted in cheers and lamps were lit.

Sunrise found a fleet of four-pirate ships deep in conversation.

“Mssr. O’Danu.” The brilliant blue eyes of the French Fille-du-Roi looked evenly at Conn. “You are most blessed with such a jeune homme.”

“I don’t understand, Captain.” Conn said with his head tilted slightly.”

“Emmm… Jeune man.” She repeated. Then thought a moment. “Young man?”

A chuckle from a crewman behind her earned an icy look, silencing him instantly.

Laughter echoed over the morning water, the ships with space enough between them, men in the rigging. Each ship ready to unfurl canvas at a moments notice.

Stories told, Conn, and the other fathers learned of the children that sailed the small ship that brought them home.

While the adults cackled and told stories, the one known as “Back-from-the-dead-red” looked around and spotted her most protected of men standing on the bow of the Wrath. She walked up to the youth, a boy when she last laid eyes on him, in the year that passed, he had grown nearly as tall as she was, his shoulders widened. But the one that Annemarie called “Mon Dash!” still looked out over the water with those green eyes that filled her with worry.

The eyes filled with an anger that haunted her soul. A steady, unblinking gaze that wished they were  somewhere beyond the horizon. When last they sailed together, she prayed that when this young man, Keegan, reunited with his family, he would find peace.

“Talk to me.” She said, sitting on the bowsprit. “You have been and always shall be my man.” Her voice soft in the daylight.

“My dad and all their crew cannot keep up with us. They are learning how to sail their ship they built the same as ours.” He shook his head, blood-colored hair glistened in the sunlight. “Even though the adults have years on boats and ships, even building, they do not have the skills to fight by reading the water. Granuaille has already drilled the others and we can run out the guns faster than fast. Even Dana has earned his place amongst us. ”

“Who, pray tell, is Dana?” Jacquotte asked. “And do not discount an adult’s skill. I am an adult and you see what I can do.”

“That would be me.” Icy blue eyes under the hair golden sunshine. The small boy-child, in her eyes stood next to the older and taller captain of the child crew. “I am his brother, what are you doing with Keegan?”

Jacquotte laughed at the younger boy’s protective nature.

“Your Keegan, is my Dash. He is my man, I have fought beside him and hold him dear in my heart.” She winked, this seemed to relax the younger one.

“Dash, you did not tell me you had such a handsome brother.”

“You know him, this was the cabin boy we took off of the ship under the command of Captain Tudor.” The cheeks of the haunted green eyes smiled. “This is him.”

“THIS? His hair was not nearly as bright, he was shades darker. And he had black fingernails.” Jacquotte clapped. “Mon dieu! You have cleaned up well, cabin-boy.”

“I am not a boy, I am a PIRATE.” He stood with his hands on his hips.

Coming barely to the woman’s shouldershe slipped her arms around Dana’s shoulders and kissed him on the forehead.

“Any family of my Pirate Prince is welcome aboard any of my fleet.” She smiled while Dana blushed brightly.

“Don’t worry, Dana,” Dash laughed. “She has done that to me, and Bradan, too.”

The sudden memory of his old friend wiped the laughter from his soul like shadows banished by sunlight.

The tall redheaded woman stepped up to the one she called Dash and put her arms around him.

To her, he was Dash MacDíoltas, The Son of Revenge.

“You, young Dana.” She brushed a blond hair out of the tow-headed boy. “You would turn a girls head quickly.”

“Aww. Ma’am…” Dana started.

“Call me Jacquotte, or if you cannot, Captain will be sufficient.” She smiled.

“Keegan? Keegan!” Conn’s voice sounded over the deck.

“We must return to the meeting, it seems that the meet and greet is over.” Keegain said.

The trio stood and walked back to the larger group. Jacquotte sadly did not have time to talk to Keegan, her dash of spice in her life. A kindred ginger with the green eyes.

In the crowd of captains and officers, they drank toasts to each other and greeted the red-headed captain of the fast ship Blackfish.

“We sail at the turn of the tide in ten-hours.” Keegan directed. “We head south, then west to Port Royal, there is a man we need to meet.”

Captain Henry Morgan would be quite surprised to see his favorite pirate had returned.

In ten hours, the tide turned and began to withdraw, four ships gracefully rounded the edge of the hidden bay and turned to a southerly course.

©2015 Dash McCallen All Rights Reserved

Married By Accident Chapter 33. I Smile Because You Are My Wife, I Laugh Because I Am Your Husband

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Married By Accident Chapter 33. I Smile Because You Are My Wife, I Laugh Because I Am Your Husband

‟Tom! This. I mean you… I am… We did… Unprotected!” Barbara paced the length of the jet, laughing hysterically holding her hands to her face. ‟I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t want to bomb my body with a morning-after pill. But, one does not get knocked-up with one time unsafe sex.”

She tried to make herself relax.

‟It can happen,” Tom said with a smirk. “And if you can’t do that, if it happens, we could consider adoption or something.”

‟Tom, it is my decision. A deeply personal decision! No one gets to tell me what my choice will be.” Barbara stood for a moment. ‟I’m sorry. It is a frightening concept and, like you said, complicates matters.”

‟Well, I think you are jumping the gun a little. I have, and I always will, support your choices. First, you are my friend. I know I am not the first choice and we did do the deed and you had other plans. I accepted that fully, weeks ago.” Tom stood behind her and slid his arms around her nude body, holding her back against his chest.

‟I hoped you would stay, but I will help you find your own life. I am old and I have a life of stories.” He said as she turned around in his arms and buried her face into his chest. “You need to build your own story, chapter by chapter. Child by child when you get there. For now, you make me smile and you are my muse.”

Tom chuckled when he was struck by a thought.

“You make me smile, because you are a precious gem, and you are a treasure that anyone would crawl over broken glass to have in their life.” He smiled. “But I laugh because I am your husband and you cannot do much about it just now.”

This made the tears that were welling up in her eyes turn into laughter.

‟Tom. You are the funniest man I know. I wanted an engagement ring from Glenn, ever since we were kids and you help me do that.”

‟Keeping you happy is my mandate.” Tom smiled. “I cannot keep you here and have you in misery. If I help you go, maybe you will return with all I have to offer.”

Sliding her arms around him, she pressed her breasts against his chest and kissed him.

‟Do not make me love you. You’d make me feel bad for all that has happened. But I promised…” Barbara smiled softly.

‟Yes. The promise.” He smiled back, but it was a smile that did not reach in his eyes.

‟Don’t interrupt. That is rude and will make me mad. But yes. I would like to get married and remember it.”

‟I understand.”Tom said as he laughed softly. ‟And we have had a good time this last month.”

“It is the weirdest time I’ve ever had.” Barbara whispered.

It had been one summer to remember. She had seen both the good and bad sides of people. It was as if her life was some grand illusion written by someone with only a one-dimensional imagination. A perfect storm of adventures and perverts. Days with drugs…

A thought occurred.

What if this were all a dream? She was still in early June, after being attacked and then beat the crap out of the serial rapist, wanted on at least ten different crimes.

‟No.” She said it into the hollow of Tom’s neck.

‟No? No what?” Tom sounded worried. ‟You have not had a good time?”

‟Oh yes. I said a thought out-loud. There was a moment where I thought this might all be a drug dream from the first night, or someone was just writing my life on a word processor.” She shook her head. “Like I am in control, but he or she makes my words come out.”

‟Now you’re inspired by something. As a writer, I know how the thoughts might come. Maybe I have written about you and you are just…”

‟Tom, do not trivialize my moment of insanity. Please.” She bit his chest lightly. ‟You did not write me into existence like some Twilight Zone movie.

‟Funny that you know about that show.” Tom chided. “You are older than you look.”

‟I study all the time. I like to get to know my husbands.” She wiped her nose on his chest and laughed at his reaction.

‟How many husbands have you had?” He looked down. “Brat.”

‟Are we going to do pillow talk standing up or would you like to cuddle?”

Taking by the hand, she pulled him to their bed and pushed him down.

He smiled, she had opened up to him more in those few moments than she had in the weeks of his hospitalization.

‟Well, I don’t know about you,” Tom said quietly, laying on his back with Barbara laying on top of him, gazing into his eyes. ‟But I appreciate the author of your life putting you on my chest. This is nice.”

‟I don’t know. Maybe they would put this all into a book- a series even.” She laughed. “I could bang you until we made the coastal cities complain, we could be a porn movie.”

‟Naw, I couldn’t take that. I’m depressed enough that you want an annulment to go marry someone else. Keeping this going as a series? We’d have to roll the clock back and live an hour-by-hour book.”

‟That would be a long time.” She nodded.

‟Okay. So let’s put that fantastic fantasy away and live what life we have left together. To use the story-writer vernacular, when you leave, I’ll close this chapter and move on into the world.” Tom followed her thoughts and wrote the story in his mind, letting his mind think out loud. “I was only going to live on the west coast for the summer anyway, then the speech at Doctor Manga’s installation. I might stay there for a few months. I have a few book-signings to do there for the next installation of Steamland.”

‟Next? How many are there?” She smiled. The first time she heard of the sequels.

‟Five as of this summer. The movie is from book-three. ‟Steamland: Heat”. And it violates more Steam-punk rules than it follows.”

‟Yeah, I have wanted to ask you about that. No Victorian-Age, you used Rome as the base for your civilization.”

‟Well, book-one started with Heron of Alexandria improving on Ctesibius’ inventions, that were already two-hundred years in development.”

‟Heron and who?”

‟Read the books.” Tom laughed, the force of the humor bouncing her up on down on his chest where she used him as a body-pillow.

‟Human technology was so close to having steam-power thousands of years ago, it is not funny, really.” Tom winked.

“Missed the steam age by that much.” Tom held up his thumb and forefinger so that little more than a finger’s width showed. ‟No telling where we would be if someone built steam trains or such back then. Christ could have traveled the lands of Nazareth in an airliner.”

‟Tom, you’ve an imagination like no other.” Barbara said smiling widely. ‟You are my muse in your own way. When you were in the hospital, I did a lot of drawing. I have much more to do, I have the itch and you are all in me, making me need to draw.”

‟I enjoy being in you.” Came the lecherous remark.

‟What? OH! Tom, I’m being serious.”

He stroked her back with his good hand, the splinted and wrapped wounded-arm carefully placed on the pillow beside them.

‟I’m just being honest.” He smiled. ‟Besides, not to move too far off the subject, but, we have to do a paper-chase to get the filings done. You need to head home to go be with Glenn.”

‟I get the feeling you are pushing me away.” Barbara said.

Feeling suddenly unhappy, selfish, even a little unwanted. She sat back, dismounted Tom and started to get dressed.

‟I think I want to get dressed. You said you would be able to fly with your arm?”

‟Yes. I have feeling, the fingers are pink, I have a good pulse. I have taken my medications and we have redressed the injuries.” He ticked off the laundry list of things. “I have no numbness. I can type, slowly or hand write on the screens. I have multiple tablets I use for that. I cursive write on the screens all the time.”

‟Cursive?”

‟It is my form of entertainment. It tickles me to see the computer read and transfer it into text.”

‟So what are you saying?”

‟We can fly the Sea Dragon there. No waiting.”

‟Oh. Okay. I will have to think about that.”

‟Why?” Tom got serious as he pulled on black jeans and a black polo-shirt that had a sleeve removed to accept his bandaged arm. ‟We can leave now and you are suddenly pulling back on going?”

‟Well…”

‟Do you want to stay married to me or go be with Glenn?” Tom said gently and sat on the edge of the bed as Barbara pulled on her shoes.

‟Two things. I care a great deal for you, Glenn would have never tolerated my quirks.” She said. “He would have blamed me for the Professor. And Glenn likes to keep me stoned. Sex is great with him after we smoked a bowl full.”

‟When you can remember it.” Tom winked.  “Or according to him?” 

Barbara laughed.

‟I remember! Most of the time…” Blushing slightly, but Tom got closer to the truth than he knew. ‟Second thing is… I have really come to adore you. No. I don’t want to do it, but I made a promise and I don’t want to wake up in bed with you and keep saying ‟If only” every so often.”

‟Do you say that now?” Tom sounded hurt.

‟Well, no. You have not given me the chance.” Barbara held his hand. ‟Don’t be hurt. I would come back and marry you if my fantasy fails.”

‟So I am the consolation prize?”

Barbara face-palmed.

‟You weren’t any kind of prize. You are the kindest, bravest man I know to put up with me, my quirks and my promises.”

‟And the best friend you will ever have. I want to you go marry him. When you look out a window and see a jet fly by, think of me. When you have children, get them the Leonard Sea Dragon Series, and I’ll write about an artist in my Steamland books. I might even name her Barbara with a sister named… Oh damn…” Tom had the look of a man who forgot something important.

‟Sandy.”

‟Yes! Sandy.” Tom laughed. ‟Sandy would not be overlooked in the stories if I put your name in it.”

‟She would like that.”

‟But that would be your connection with me as you write your own story in life’s book.” Tom said, serious again. ‟I have my own explores to do in the world.”

‟Tell me you would find someone to love?” Barbara said. ‟Please?”

‟No. I cannot promise that. I won’t be untruthful to you. I have been alone a long time, you were a surprise.” Tom said.

‟A pleasant, exciting, twisted, funny and chocolate-flavored,”  He licked her lips. ‟Surprise.” 

‟You are not upset?”

‟I am a little hurt, but I am not a teenager and life-is-over crushed.” Tom smiled softly. ‟I knew you didn’t want to be married and you could have had a divorce that next day, but you wanted it annulled instead. So, I am well prepared.”

‟We can fly now?”

‟Let’s file a flight plan, check with the crews to prepare the Dragon and we can leave in an hour.”

Cellular Justice Chapter 8. Eeyogee the Friar

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Chapter 8. Eeyogee the Friar

Las Cruces club. The only member ever allowed to live as a non-participant, Jaime Jesus Lopes de Malaga, known as Eeyogee for the tattoo of the eye of god on the palm of his left hand.

He Became a devout Christian after the death of his best friend from a shooting that involved Eeyogee, then the future brother moved out-of-state and, becoming a Friar. In a few years, he returned and read from the bible, speaking against violence and for the path of righteousness.

Sitting down with a tearful member of the gang, Roberto “Tirador” Herrera. The conversation included confessions of thefts of mobile devices that had internet connections. Tablet, phones and ebooks.

“It was me ‘n’ Carlo and his brother. Some wench came out of the store with a bag, we snatched her up and started to show her a good time.” Tirador shook his head. The euphemism for a sexual assault was not lost on Brother Malaga. “She kicked our asses and ran. But left her toys with us, so we took them and left. There were four phones and one of those e-book computers in it. Y’know? “

The Grey Friar nodded. He had taken a vow of poverty, but he grew up interested in and always loved computers and electronics.

“The other two they took them out and turned them on, I was playing with the phone, a new droid phone, and dropped it. The damned thing broke up, battery came out and the phone never worked after that. The glass didn’t even break.”

The other two men that Tirador was talking about, died when something blew up in their hands.

Nothing was found of the bomb, Jaime spoke with the investigators, still mystified as to the cause and reasons. Officer Jefferson, the veteran of so many years on patrol, spoke to the Friar during a counseling process with family that had lost one of their own.

“There is a pattern, this is not isolated Brother Magala, there have been many deaths from something that explodes, but we cannot make out what it is.” He said in confidence. “I implore you, if you can find strange phone that’s been stolen? Please turn it in. No questions asked. And for God’s sake! Do not turn the thing on!”

Speaking later with the youthful gangster, Brother Magala felt fear in his heart for the young man that he saw so much of himself as a young man in his mind’s eye.

“Roberto,” Friar Magala used the young man’s Christian name. “Bobby, do you still have the broken phone?”

“I.” He paused. “I threw it into the oil recycling bucket at the tune-up shop downtown. The one on Church and Turner street?”

“That was only a few days ago,” He nodded with the younger gang-member. “I don’t think they would have had the recycler come by yet.”

“They only have the recycling truck go by once a week. Why do you need it?”

“Bobby, you need to go home. Do not do any stealing, there is someone who is killing brothers and fathers, they are using something that a police officer said that is strange. I will take that to the cops for you.”

“You think that is what killed Carlo and Zeus?”

“Let’s allow the police to figure that out.” The holy man stood with the young man who led him where the gang member dumped the broken phone. After several minutes of fishing around in the black muck of used motor oil, they came up with the phone.

Even coated with oil, it had an odd texture to it.

Brother Magala put it in a plastic baggy and then into a paper bag for transporting the device to the police.

“Bobby, do not steal anything from anyone. God will know, but more important, there are people out there that no knows who it is. They don’t know what is going on, but they do know the phones are involved somehow.” The Friar said softly. Then more firmly. “Go home. Go to your girlfriend and daughter. Go back to school and get a job. God will find a good path for you.”

“You forget what it’s like Eeyogee, I can’t walk away, you are the only one to ever do that.” Bobby said. “I do what I’m told, or they will kill my girl and child.”

“You won’t help them if you are in a grave, Bobby.” The older man said softly. “Blown to bits in a back alley is no place for a family man.”

“Si. Yes, brother. I will try to dedicate my life for my children. If you can keep me from being branded a coward, please, that would go a long way to help my life.”

“As God’s will, it will be done.” The Frequent Friar said.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 2 Seconds

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T-Minus 2 Seconds

Passing through the atmosphere, photons interacted with the oxygen and nitrogen, but still straight on to the stalled dark blue car of LucilleMay Sprecks who was frozen in fear.

Photons struck the paint and chrome of Lucy’s car. Instantly redirected by reflection, the photons passed through the air at ninety-thousand kilometers per second slower than in a pure vacuüm. Some colors absorbed by the paint and then reflected the remaining color of dark blue.

Engine 2315 self-dispatched, rolled down the driveway, already the crew had dropped paintbrushes and rakes, running towards the engine. The seasonal firefighters did not know the nature of the call, but the Captain was waving frantically. The Engineer already on the radio. The two men, from years of experience, knew of the impending accident was just seconds from happening and called for a dispatch of a paramedic unit.

“Copy, medics Code-3 to your location.” Dispatch responded.

The photons traveled the distance between the sudden obstruction and passed through the iris of Russell’s eye in twenty-five nanoseconds — 0.000000025 — striking the light-sensitive membrane in the back of Russell’s eyes. Neural pathways reacted to the absorbed photons and processed it to his occipital lobe, in the back of Russell’s head.

T-1.9999955 seconds. Photons streaked past Russell’s head and entered the lens of Lulu’s eyes. The nervous system transmitted the image at two-hundred miles-per-hour to the brain of Mrs. Fletcher.

Russell’s brain transmitted the image to the frontal cortex. One-point-six seconds it took to have the one-hundred billion axioms to recognize the threat, the mind of the skilled rider tried to organize a reflex action.

T-1.99925 seconds. Fifty-miles per hour they traveled towards the immobile car. More than seventy-three feet per second — Already they had covered more than a third of a football field.

T- 1.5 Seconds. Lucy saw the collision coming, her eyes processing the closing motorcycle and her mind locked up. All she needed to do to avoid the impending collision was move her foot to the gas-pedal. But in that moment, she did not know what to do. There were no answers for the panicked soul that only wanted a glass of wine and to save the soul of a lady Druid.

Russell’s brain processed information at the speed of three supercomputers.The most intelligent man on earth was not needed to know that the exit routes were:

Oncoming traffic in front of the stopped car — rejected as death was all but certain.

Forest with big trees, bushes and large pointy rocks: – rejected. The outcome would be equally bad.

Hit car — poor choice, but the debate was moot with the outcome defaulted while the mind of the man searched for safe exit to this disaster. He was out of time for evasive maneuvers.

T- 1.25 seconds. BRAKES! The mind screamed! Russell took a deep breath.

T- 1.20 seconds. BRAKES! The mind begged. The entire world was silent, his soul was deaf to all sounds. All the world was mute.

T- 1.1 seconds. BRAKES! The mind commanded. No bumps, no sound of wind. Silence was louder than a rock-concert in a steel warehouse.

T- 0.9 seconds. BRAKES! The mind ordered. The engine was inaudible.

T- 0.8 seconds. A pleading voice sounded through the earbud of the motorcycles comm system.

“NOoooooo!” It was Lulu.

T- 0.5 seconds. BRAKES! The foot finally responded and jammed down on the rear brake and the hands grabbed for the front brake lever.

T- 0.4 seconds. The brake pads built up pressure. Years of riding, he closed his hand into a fist and crushed the front brake lever.

T- 0.15 seconds. The friction pads moved into contact with the rotating mass of the brake disc and began to engage at fifty-one feet away.

In an instant, Russell did calculations in his head, estimating he needed an extra twenty feet to fully perform an emergency stop.

Twenty feet he did not have.

T- 0.10 seconds. Russell tensed up. Impact was imminent. Pressure in rear brake built up enough to stop rotation of the rear tire. Seventy-percent of the weight of the motorcycle shifted to the front tire.

The shock absorbers on the motorcycle compressed as the big bike did a nosedive. On two tires, patches of rubber the size of a hand of a large man tried to stop a half-ton of steel, rubber and human flesh and bone.

The rear tire of the motorcycle began to skid, the tire locked up and melting from friction with the highway, liquid rubber now lubricating the tire which began to yaw to the right, the front tire slowing faster than the rear. Lulu, sat farthest away from the center mass of the motorcycle and adding more weight to the pendulum. Out of control with the dynamic forces Russell valiantly struggled to stop the inevitable.

Unstoppable, moving towards the immobile car, “Crossed up” as Gertrude the motorcycle yawed and slid sideways, they moved with Lulu making prayers, begging that it would be all right.

“Please don’t let it be bad, Lord, please let it be all right.”

It would not be all right.

T- 0.05 seconds. Russell could see over the top of the car, his mind processed information at a phenomenal rate, he could see the road was clear on the far side of the obstruction.

If only… Was his sole thought.

He could see the eyes of the little old lady, they were wide like a deer in the headlights, with plate-sized pupils.

T- 0.02 seconds. Photons made shadows on the ground. Shadows that merged as the front tire was bound down as tightly as it could be without locking up as the rear brake did. Speed was dropping rapidly, if it was on a graph, it would show the line of the deceleration as nearly vertical on a second by second chart.

T- 0.01 seconds. Russell could calculate his speed was still greater than…

T- 0.00 seconds. Impact! The photons that made shadows, now only made one as the front tire hit slightly ahead of the rest of the hog.

The force of the energy ripped the big bike’s grips from Russell’s hands. The husband’s body became a missile of kinetic energy launched by the impact of the vehicles.

Russell hit, bounced and flew over the top of the car, breaking the windshield with his helmeted head as he went by and landed partly on his face. The open-faced helmet affording him little protection, sliding and rolling down the asphalt. Russell came to a rest on his back. His face hurt, but he was awake.

T+ 0.50 seconds. Russell laid there, taking stock of his limbs. Pain was not overpowering but there was no question he was hurt. Movement at the periphery of his eyes made him turn his head.

The car was on the move. The little old lady was leaving! He could see her tail lights getting smaller as he tried to read the license plate from his awkward position.

Then, he saw his best friend’s body.

She was alarmingly still. Still as death.

T+ 1.5 seconds.

“Lulu…” He whispered a plea. “Lulu, move.”

She lay on the ground, partly under the motorcycle. Unmoving, silent. She lay there with her leg bent in way that was unnatural. He tried to crawl on his arms, leaving a bloody trail back to where his wife, his copilot and his best friend and lover, lay. Russell’s vision became blurred with agony as the pain set in. Blood dripped off his face where the road abraded his skin away with the rough black top.

T+ 5.0 seconds. Pounding of feet and a heavy “Thump-thump” of a huge motor pulling up next to him. An enormous chopper with an even larger rider looking down at him through goggles. A tattoo of the 82nd Airborne division on his forearm oddly was in focus to Russell’s eyes.

“We caught her, brother. We caught that old lady before she got very far. Hang in there, help is on the way.”

“Lulu?” Russel moaned. “My wife?”

“Your old lady’s alive, bro. Hurt bad, but alive.”

“Call 9-1-1.”

“Station is right there, they are coming now.” The giant biker told Russell with a slight Norwegian accent. “They’ll be here in two seconds.”

Two seconds, if only he had seen the car two seconds sooner.

FINIS

2 Seconds… T-Minus 3 Seconds

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T-Minus 3 Seconds

Twice the moon’s distance from the earth, photons closed the distance to the growing blue and white sphere that destiny had chosen for them. Of the many photons that left the photosphere of Sol, dust, satellites, Van Allen Belt and the associated atomic debris entrapped around the earth’s radiation belt, while many photons reflected off or absorbed by alpha particles, more than half passed through the region.

Alongside the highway, Lucy saw the opening in the traffic and took her foot off of the brake of her German engineered car and pressed on the throttle. Turning the wheel she pulled out across the lanes in an illegal U-turn. It was perfect, a godsend to get on her way.

The big car spoke with its authority and crossed the lanes of traffic…

AND STOPPED! Jamming her foot down on the brake pedal, narrowly missing a car that turned in, she had not seen the turn signal on the old pickup truck driven by an even older man. Then Lucy took her foot off the brake and began roll forward again more slowly, crossing the lanes midway and trying to figure out if she still had enough space to merge it, Looking down the lane of traffic, not enough room, she looked back and realized the headlight of a motorcycle was close.

Too close!

Station 2315 still had the garage doors open, two bays, two type-3 engines with fully stocked first aid sat, now warmed up with the daily checks. Two full crews did maintenance around the property while Captain Thomas watched the disaster set up.

He didn’t wait.

“Hank, hit the alert button!” He yelled at the engineer sitting in the driver’s seat. “There’s an accident going to happen!”

“Where?”

Hank’s eyes followed the captain’s pointing finger as his hand automatically moved to the control panel.

“Ohshit.” He said it as one word. His right hand mashed on the siren button, not pausing to switch the dial to any other setting.

A hundred-yards behind, “The Hammer” Erikssen saw that the rider in front of him did not seem to react to the big German luxury car that pulled out and stopped in front of him. Even from here, he swore he could see the saucer-wide eyes of the little-old-lady that was piloting the rubber and steel cage on wheels.

He yelled a futile warning to the rider and his passenger. But no matter how loud he could yell, it was not humanly possible for Russell to hear the big Norwegian.

A string of Norwegian profanities issued forth while Stonn helplessly watched what was to come.

Lulu spoke of what she planned for dinner, later with the children and pondered what she had in the ice-box. They would sit on the patio after Russell cooked up the chops she had to get cooked or throw out. Russell agreed that it sounded like a good plan and mentally mapped his route home.

Russell turned the throttle up on Gertrude, preparing to change lanes, just checking his mirror and glancing over his shoulder making sure the lane was clear, he noted a large group of riders was behind him. At least ten riders judging from the headlights. Looking ahead again to see the…

CAR!

2 Seconds… T-Minus 5 Seconds

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T-Minus 5 Seconds

 

Photons were less than four-times the distance from the moon as the moon was from the Earth. Racing at full speed with nothing in the way, the fates guided the energies that now were visible light.

On the highway, Russell had a passing thought of dinner on the back patio of burgers that he would cook on the wood-fired grill outside. The smell of smoke was light in the air from the wildfires seventy-miles away mixing with pine scent of the forest filled the senses as they rode on the rumbling Hog.

Riding on the back of the motorcycle that Russell had named after an adventurous water-bird “Gertrude”, her arms around him, and looking around at the mountains that gave her such joy to be among trees that dwarfed any other living thing and Lulu could see the bare stone above north shore where an avalanche stripped the mountainside clear of vegetation down to bare rock decades before and had not yet recovered.

Smiling, she leaned back, the wife and mother looked out to the right, over the sapphire-blue water of the twenty-two mile long lake. Water so naturally pure, even as it sat in the lake, open to the sky it would pass any health and any purity tests that a government body could do. Naturally soft water, pure as it could be.

Those that sailed on the waters of the lake were known to have occasional attacks of acrophobia, a fear of heights, when they would look over the edge of the boats rails into the water. Such was the lake called Tahoe.

In some winters, the big lake would partly freeze and ice would pile up on the shore in large piles when the wind blew hard. Summers it was known to have waterspouts that danced on the big lake and often made local headlines.

Over the lake, Lulu pointed out and began to fumble for her camera, a bald eagle circled, the big fishing raptor was on the hunt.

*Maybe* She thought. *If I get just a little lucky, I might get a shot of the eagle diving for a fish.*

Less than two football fields ahead, Lucy turned her steering wheel as far as it would go and inched forward into the beginning of her turn. A big truck rumbled down the highway, partly blocking her view, but it looked clear behind the trailer to do her illegal U-turn.

Captain Thomas stood at the end of the ramp to the garage that held his engine, waiting for the rumbling group of Harley’s go past. A curiosity of who would be riding through, interested him. A few clubs were at constant odds and, on occasion, murdered each other.

Engineer Thomas cussed as he dropped a socket and it rolled under the rolling tool-box he maintained at the garage for light maintenance of the fire apparatus.

A break in the traffic in the direction that Lucy wanted to turn was a treasure that God had sent her and she was going to take it.

Russell, dropped back from closing on a semi-truck that had “Eat Organic” in a graphic painted on the back of the trailer. Remembering to make a call later in the week on an investment that would boost a local organic farmer’s business.

“Honey, make a note to call Charlene tomorrow? I want to get a meeting with her on a distribution idea.”

Lulu focused on the eagle as the big bird circled, searching for its next meal.

“Okay.” She felt frustration in her heart at the uncooperative raptor. “I was not getting that picture anyway.” As they approached a wide spot in the road, she saw a sedan sitting on the shoulder of the highway.

Stonn “Hammer” Erikssen rolled on his heavily modified motorcycle. A Harley-Davidson by heritage, but the engine that powered this two-wheeled fury, an Orca engine, the second largest in the line, more horsepower than many cars generated kept his soul happy. Third in command of the small group of riders, they were closing on a rider and passenger about a half-mile ahead.

From the photon’s point of view, the continents on the earth could be identified. At the universal speed limit, the ETA now?

A little over three heartbeats.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 15 Seconds

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T-Minus 15 Seconds

 

“Next time we come, let’s stay the night at the village?” Lulu asked. Russell knew the place she was referring to. A bed and breakfast house with a claw-footed tub in the room. A huge fireplace with wood stacked by the workers and an expansive view of the lake.

A hot tub on the balcony to watch the sunset over the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It was the perfect spot to spend time away and to themselves.

The very thought of it made him smile.

In space, photons were leaving the orbit of Venus behind and approaching the orbit of the moon. A this distance, the moon would be barely more than a bright spot on the edge of the Earth’s blue disk,  the shape and distance became clear as the seconds ticked by.

Four-hundred meters ahead, a quarter-mile away, Lucy Sprecks, irritated and frustrated with the traffic, moved her right foot off the brake, moving it to the gas pedal, while doing the trick that her husband showed her years before, to use the left foot on the brake, letting her have a quicker dash if she needed.

Lucy had picked up a few tricks over the years, she was an expert driver, no matter what the Motor Vehicle Nazi’s said. She had more years driving than the testers had been on this earth. She was not about to listen to the young’uns about changes in rules that had worked for years.

Seat belts! Heaven’s sakes. She never had seat belts as a child and she lived. But now, even that kindly State Patrolman who talked to her at length, even if it seemed that he and his girlfriend partner camped out at the corner down from her gated driveway. He would pull her over before she even got to the stop sign down at the end of the street and lecture her.

Once again, she would put it on at his goading. Even the cute little girl who carried more equipment than Lucy felt the officer needed, lectured her on a few occasions when her man-partner was not there.

“Are you two married?” Lucy asked once, “You should be, you make a cute couple.” She added when the young lady answered “No.”

One late afternoon after Lucy got another lecture from Officer Karen, Lucy sat at the stop sign an extra hundred feet down the street with the police car right behind her when a man from the place she had fled long ago with Joshua after the death of her children, had a seizure at the wheel while coming to the intersection that Lucy waited at.

Drifting over the line, the pickup truck with the big camper on the back went through the intersection without slowing down and hit Lucy head-on as she sat still.

With air-bags and seatbelts, Lucy walked away from collision with nothing more than a skinned nose.

And she walked quickly! The smoke from the airbags made her think that the car was on fire, her knees hurt, but she would have walked barefoot over chilren’s toy blocks rather than to burn to death.

Ever since that day, she had panic reactions when something came at her from any direction. She even became unable to watch the news when it showed car crashes on the TV.

Ten times the orbit of the moon away, photons closed the distance to the earth and moon had separated into two points of light, the brightest points at this distance, other than the sun that was falling behind.

On the back of a rumbling Harley-Davidson, Lulu talked into the microphone of plans with the children and a weekend on the lake with the entire family as they cruised along.

A spluttering sound and a complaint from Russell interrupted Lulu, Russell suffered a direct hit by a butterfly to his shoulder that spread to his chest and cheek. He would need a shower.

Lulu offered to help, after the children when to bed, the tip of her finger playing with the back of his neck, below the helmet.

Nevada Douglas County Fire Department Station 2315, Engineer Hank Kettleman stood up and looked at the Captain.

“That will not leak again this summer. All new parts.” Hank smiled, pulling off nitrile gloves and throwing them into the can in the corner.

Captain Thomas nodded and looked down the drive as it opened out on to the highway, the sounds of a deep rumble, like an earthquake, but constant and growing louder.

A group of motorcycles, Robert Thomas owned his fair share of iron horses and would never miss an opportunity to watch a club ride by.

As Bob watched the highway, he noted a late-model Mercedes sitting to the right of the fog-line with its turn signal on, but it was not in a turning lane, nor was there an intersection.

Bob had seen this before, a triple-fatality accident a few years before, teenagers in an old VW Bus pulled an illegal U-turn in the highway after a missed corner, the broad-side impact from the delivery truck split the teen’s car in half, spilling bodies out on to the pavement.

Two died at the scene, and the third, the driver, gave up and willed himself to death a few days later. No amount of medicine would save the soul who felt responsible for the death of his own brother and girlfriend.

The length of a football field away, Russell and Lulu enjoyed their conversation while they drove the hour’s ride home with plans about dinner and a shower later.

It was Saturday night, after all!

2 Seconds… T-Minus 60 Seconds

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T-Minus 60 Seconds

Lucy was getting impatient, traffic lined up and unbroken for a few minutes — too many. She was getting impatient and irritable. Not for the first time she swore at the numbers of people around the lake that Joshua loved, and ultimately died in while fishing. She longed for the days where you could drive for an hour and not see a single soul.

A break in the traffic in the opposite direction showed itself. Lucy was going to take it. Coming at her from in front, she timed the arrival of no cars in the direction she wanted to go.

Space – Photons crossed the orbit of Venus, speeding on the way to Earth. Many of the photons would be absorbed by dust, debris and even reflected away by satellites before entering into the atmosphere of the only planet to have been absolute in the discovery of life on its surface.

One-thousand one-hundred meters away from Lucy and her new Mercedes that all the women were jealous of, Russell and Lulu laughed over the intercom when she slid her hands under his jacket, running her hands over the chest she knew so well and always enjoyed her husband’s body and any chance she could touch him, she would.

Especially if it was an inappropriate time and place, she enjoyed his reactions ever the more.

As a wife, she would walk arm in arm with her husband, often with her hand in his back pocket just so she could squeeze anytime her hand had a need.

As a mother, she loved her children more than life itself. Lulu was known to run over rattlesnakes with her truck if there were any in the areas of the hundred-acre desert backyard that served as the children’s playground.

Russell had his own fun with the girl of the dark eyes and black hair that moved in with him, taking his last name and giving him children that he loved most in this world.

Even more than his big v-twin motorcycle that he bought before he married Lulu. It was the ride, he felt, that Lulu fell in love with him for.

Lulu had other ideas, mostly on how Russell’s jeans fit around his hips.

But what ever the causes of the two soul mates to find each other, neighbors and family knew it was a love affair of legends.

Just a thousand yards ahead, LucyMay clenched her teeth in frustration, she hated traffic. Unwilling to admit that driving was becoming more difficult for her, she would argue with everyone and anyone over the subject that her mind was as acute as it ever was. Which was true, but her body suffered from greatly diminished reflexes.

It was times like this that she never thought about the size and speed of oncoming traffic. She felt that her car was the speediest and safest on the road for a hundred miles in any direction.

An intersection on the highway nearly nine-hundred yards away, a dozen Harley-Davidson motorcycles waited to turn and merge with the flow of traffic. Riders waved at the couple and Russell waved back in the common show of solidarity of two-wheeled riders have everywhere.

Destiny awaited the players who were in play.

In space, from the photon point of view, the earth separated from a blueish speck to two specks of the moon and earth.

Time: T-Minus 35 Seconds.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 300 Seconds

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T-Minus 300 Seconds

Riding along at the speed limit, Russell and Lulu talked of having lunch at the North shore of the lake, Ian had done an extra good job this time.

Russell had his open-faced helmet on so the conversation was easier for him. Lulu wore a full face helmet with a stout chin guard with a gem-light just above the eye line. The light allowed Lulu to read map sections at night when she would tape to the back of Russell’s helmet. A very expensive and light-weight helmet, made from such materials that a fighter pilot or NASA would be envious of.

Laughing at a joke, they passed a state patrol car that sat on the side the of the road, the officer inside doing paperwork of a recent citation. Russell like everyone else on that section of road checked their speed at that moment. Lulu laughed at her husband, he was just doing the speed limit anyway, and yet he still backed off the throttle slightly.

“No need to slow down old man!” Jabbing him in the side with her thumb. “You drive like a grampa anyway!” Her voice clear in the electronic mini-earphone built into the helmet that then in turn connected to the motorcycle’s audio system.

Two miles ahead, Lucy found her bible. She had tucked it into her blouse pocket. She did not have to make the ten-mile trip back home and be late for lunch after all! Now, Edna would not have wait to have her soul saved.

Or at least Lucy would TRY to save Edna’s soul –again.

Pulling over, Lucy let the big trucks pass. The next place to turn was another three-miles, this spot would be good enough for a U-turn if she just did it quick.

Traffic was a pestilence as Lucy waited, she remembered the days when her husband would drive them in their old car – then itself was a jewel, a Darrin. Sporty, windy with the top down and it was the most expensive thing that Joshua bought. She brought herself back from the distracting thought as the wine was waiting for her in large enough amounts to improve the day for even the dour Katarina Kurk, the German woman who was hysterically funny when she had a half-bottle of wine in her.

Katarina, once an actress and comedian in her old country, Kat had retired to California, then to the Nevada side of the lake. Hating everyone that was not her friends, it would take her many meetings to warm up to any one person.

Katarina would not even crack a smile, even with watching reruns of Abbott and Costello on the newest television she could afford. Although the woman had long retired, she had a habit of buying new household items every-other year. Nothing in her house was more than two years old. Kat never batted an eye for spills on her sofa or chairs, she just would replace everything.

Rumor had it that her most loved furniture remained in a house in Los Angeles for when she wanted to entertain her old friends in Hollywood.

Here, in the high-mountains, she was a party animal from the old-school ways. Able to out-drink many men.

Few tried, most felt a great fear of Kat, she was a giggly drunk, but her temper flared like a volcanic blast if she was ever pushed. Katarina was famous locally for beating a would-be armed robber that raided a grocery store where she was shopping. One of the pair put a machete in her face and she proceeded to beat the young man unconscious with a stick of dry salami. His partner ran up to assist, Kat used the same salami stick to crush the other bad guy’s testicles with a blow that security cameras recorded that the shop owner released online.

A late night talk-show host invited Katarina to sit and talk, leading to more movie offers, most of which she turned down.

And then, there was the rogue-ish secretary that worked for Katarina.

Tall, rugged, the redheaded assistant played winemaster when the women met, and had arms that both Edna and Lucy loved to touch. He never complained and always kept their glasses and bottles fresh and full.

If ever he complained about sexual harassment, Kat never said.

The women’s coffee klatch was Lucy’s favorite time of the week.

All five of them.

And then Sunday, too!

It was a great day, Lucy thought and smiled.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 1,545,264,000 Seconds

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T-Minus 1,545,264,000 Seconds

 

Lluvia “Lulu” was born to Roberto and Delores De Soto during one of the most intense storms of the season. Descended from Hernandez De Soto, she inherited an exploring soul.

Never one to back down from a challenge she met each one with a quick wit and a laugh. Beauty sparkled in her eyes as she looked upon the world. As a child she would be found climbing trees – much to the chagrin of mother Delores who tried to teach this girl how to behave like a girl.

But with Lulu, it was an effort in futility.

Once when teased by the boys, Roberto heard screaming and knew, Lulu was beyond angry. The father of eight put down his farming tools, and walked around the house. There, Roberto found that his Lulu of the sonrisas, pushed beyond her limit of temper by her brothers.

She had her four brothers treed!

Roberto laughed!

The four older brothers had pelted Lulu with fruit as she had come home from school in her new dress that her Mama made.

The result:

A temper that never broke without reason, this day did. Fury, like the tornadoes that could scour the earth clean of soil and asphalt across the middle of America, she had bloodied the nose of one brother and all had run for the tree they had picked fruit from.

Lulu had pushed the ladder over on its side and now carried an ax, where her brothers sat, trapped in the tree. The girl with the pretty smile, today had tears and murder in her eyes.

The elder De Soto called Lulu over and calmed her. Mother De Soto would be furious when she got into the house, Lulu cried on her papa’s arm

“Mi bebé, I shall take care of that now, your brothers will pay that penalty. Just do not cut down this tree, please? It produces fruit for our crops and it would be years before a new one I would plant to reach a productive age.”

In the weeks that followed, Lulu laughed as the brothers learned how to sew and created for her and her three sisters dresses that matched. Sewn to the exacting standards of Delores De Soto, it took the four boys a year to get it right.

The brutal teasing the brothers got from their friends over the punishment, lasted longer than the year that they learned to sew “Like a girl”.

In years to come, Carlos, the middle brother, became a well-known clothier and influential designer of fashion as he grew up. He incorporated with his name on a building at the age of 630,720,000 seconds, his name was soon a desired label.

Time was t-minus 950,354,000 seconds.

Lulu entered college, the first of the siblings, with some challenges in her grades she did not get into the colleges she wished for. Learning to learn at the local college, she met a girl who would become one of her closest friends. CarlaAnn was an ever dreaming, plan making and rule bending exciting girl who was fun to do things with.

Together they got in occasional trouble but never serious enough for the police to ever press charges. Only once did the girls have to sit in the police station and wait for their parents to come pick them up.

Whispering to Lulu, CarlaAnn laughed quietly.

“That was awesome!”

All Lulu did was laugh, even being grounded for a month, setting the fire alarm off in the town’s hotel, forcing patrons out in various stages of undress was totally worth it.

Lulu and Carla began a business together of rodeo clothing until CarlaAnn met Jack, an older boy who CarlaAnn was in love with, who talked her into buying Lulu out and expanding the business into motorcycle racing instead of just rodeo clothing. CarlaAnn allowed Jack to run the company with CarlaAnn and Lulu being the sales representatives.

Lulu met with many of the racing teams and became successful in promoting her friend’s company.

After several months Jack became the head of the company and would direct all day-to-day operations. Sometimes it seemed the company shorted Lulu  or would be very late in paying Lulu her salary, but CarlaAnn would only make excuses. As weeks went by, CarlaAnn had begun to walk with her eyes looking down more often, she stopped looking people in the eyes, especially her best friend, Lulu.

On occasion, CarlaAnn would slip a roll of hundred-dollar bills into Lulu’s purse and whisper.

“Don’t tell Jack. Please.”

Occasionally, a slight discoloring of CarlaAnn’s face that could not be covered by make-up would worry Lulu, but her best friend would never let on what happened.

At one rodeo, Lulu was sitting with a horse owner talking about equipment that the company was seeking to get into. Barrels, saddles. Many saddle-makers had lined up when the rumor (started by Lulu herself to test the waters) that CarlaAnn’s company was moving into distribution of more equipment at a reasonable price.

Lulu met Russell at one autumn car show.

She met and spoke with a race-horse owner, Harold Stepkin, invited a handsome young man and introduced him and Lulu. With sparkling ebony eyes and an exotic look to match his mind, Russell Fletcher attracted Lulu right away. In turn, when he looked at her, the sounds of the world went quiet.

Dark of eye and quick of wit. She enthralled him immediately.

Well on her way to make an impact in alternate power sources for big vehicles. She was promoting her best friend’s company that was expanding into power systems.

Two weeks later Russell bought Lulu dinner and they talked long hours after watching the sun set. The restaurant closed around them and they were the last to leave with the employees.

In the following months, Jack’s mismanagement took a toll on CarlaAnn, no longer did the two women travel together or were known as the party girls to know or buy items from.

Lulu was finally paid in full by CarlaAnn’s company while Jack failed to make other payments required by the government, instead spending the money on other dubious activities.

Quietly, Lulu returned the rolls of hundred-dollar bills from the accumilated pile of rolls to CarlaAnn after Jack went to prison and CarlaAnn’s acquittal. The court found Jack had used the resources of the company and to have a role in corrupt activities in the local community.

After parting ways with CarlaAnn, Lulu and Russell were never apart more than an afternoon in the years that followed.

The following spring, Lulu’s father, Roberto passed away hours after watching his bebé marry the boy with almond eyes and a winning smile. The bittersweet day would be remembered by both families for generations.

Seven years later, Mama Delores married a green-eyed Celt with quick wit and a voice like distant thunder.

Settled in, children were born to the lovers and friends while they started their next generation. Russell moved the family to the high desert area south of Reno. Loving to visit, but not live in, the snows of Tahoe, he took Lulu often to ride his Harley-Davidson around the jewel the mountains.

Time was T-Minus 126,144,000 seconds.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 2,775,168,000 Seconds

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T-Minus 2,775,168,000 Seconds

 

LucilleMay Adler born to George and Ethel grew up in Chicago on the poorest side of town. George was a warehouseman and had never had much time for his family. A heavy drinker by the time that Lucy was in her mid-teens. He died when he drove into a tree on his way home. Ejected from the overturning car, the intoxicated father struck his head on the hard ground and never woke from his injuries.

Lucy and her mother moved to California on suggestion of her aunt Lewellyn where she became involved with a young man who went to school. He impressed Lucy with his clear blue eyes and aspirations. The young man often would take Lucy on rides in the country as they sat with picnics under his favorite trees along the Marin headlands.

Trying his hand at farming, Joshua Sprecks was a failure. Buying the land around the hills in the southern bay area, they fought and struggled for years until a builder spoke with them about selling land so a home could be built.

Pausing to think, Joshua refused the offer. Instead, he spoke with an employee who helped him and in turn they looked into building a few houses which sold quickly.

In the years that followed, Joshua found he had talents in the business of home and subdivision design. With a good relationship with the local inspectors, Joshua Sprecks made his life comfortable for his growing family. His plans for schools that the children would attend were set as father blazed the trail by going back to school himself, becoming an architect of some renown in the area.

Shortly after the first of Lucy’s four children were born. Lucy developed an addiction to Valium, a common problem in the early years of the drug. Most of the women in her church were very much addicted to the Valium family of medications, and an active trade developed within the group as the hoarders would sell among the women that needed it at the moment.

One springtime afternoon, everyone had arrived at home from school and after finishing chores. The day was warm and beautiful and a wonderful time for the young. Joshua Junior promised he would be careful, Lucy’s smiled and allowed her eldest son to take the family car and drive his younger brother and two sisters to the store for sodas. Joshua Junior was always very careful at the wheel of the car, Lucy was always careful to teach him of his responsibilities. Teachings that he took to heart, always.

Alas the drunk driver that collided with them had no such guidance.

The light in Lucy’s eyes dimmed as she never quite recovered burying four of her five children. The only survivor of the accident that took the lives of all the children was the youngest who had to stay home to do homework.

Josh Sr. took the next offer of his three-hundred acre ranch and bought land in the Lake Tahoe area away from the metropolitan growing around their orchards. Houses built haphazardly without the plans that Joshua tried to include with his developments, and the effect was, to him, untenable.  

It was not fair to Joshua Sprecks, who had no wish to stay in the area where his children died at the hands of a man who paid only a month’s worth of salary in fines.

And the patriarch of his surviving family could not suffer living in the shadow of the four headstones that marked the graves of his children, moved to the mountains, never to return willingly to the lands of his shattered dreams.

Dear Universe: Chapter 2. Be Continued

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2. Be Continued

Smoke was heavy as the ‟helo” came in for a landing on the mountaintop. Winds were unpredictable, but the hand crew deployed quickly as they expertly handed out the tools of their trade.

Brush hooks – a kind of curve-bladed ax that looks like a shepard’s staff with a razor’s edge that they used to cut and drag brush out of the fire break

Pulaski grubbing tools – An ax on one side and a trenching and grubbing tool on the other. Looks like a cousin to a pick.

McLeod – a hoe and rake combination built on the toughest proportions. Probably the least favorite tool that the crews used, but the most useful.

The R-5 Fire shovel. A short-handled round nose shovel with a sharpened edge for cutting through roots and digging quickly. Used for scraping ground and throwing dirt on fire for direct suppression. Often used to do final clean up by the firefighter crew and are last in line of a firefight often called the drag shovel.

Firefighter bodies were ready for this. Trained, hardened by repeated morning abuse called ‟Physical Training”. The team of men and woman would perform a series of stretches and aerobic exercises that ended with a five-mile run. All before sunrise and breakfast.

All summer, they would sweat more before breakfast than most people did all day. Polishing and sharpening their tools, checking equipment, then a half hour after breakfast they would load up and head to scheduled  projects for inspection or maintenance of brush clearing on roadways in the back-country. Gloves and hard-hats worn, they would test or inspect construction areas. There was little area of the mountainous terrain that they did not step foot in, a thousand square-miles that they protected with their brethren of other operational bases or centers. Dad often called her “Princess” and told her of things he did during the days he was away in his letters.

‟Continuing: It is twelve-hours later, we have cut almost five-kilometers of line in an area that is too hazardous for bulldozers. I’m seriously tired, but we need to eat here in a bit, the sun has gone down and we are now in a parking lot-sized area where the helicopters land. I see a comfy rock that we are going to sleep on in a little while. In the meantime, my meal is cooking in a can. Someone brought some spam (Yes, I know, but when you are hungry and tired, everything is a banquet!) and we are cooking it over a candle powered stove in its own can.”

‟We need to eat and then get back to the line, we are to join up with another crew that is cutting towards us. The fire is about two miles off.. probably you use metric when you are reading this so that would be a little over three kilometers and moving in our direction. We are cutting this line below the ridge top and backfiring as we go. (That is, we are burning it up to the ridge.) Food! Be back later. Don’t go away.”

She laughed. Writing on paper and he puts her on hold. ‟Don’t go away.” Once again, reminded that he was always next to her in her heart.

She remembered and loved his sense of humor.

‟Back! It is now another ten-hours later, I’m making a hike out with the rest of the crew. We had crews airlifted in, but we were out of position to get a ride, so… While we are on a break from our walk out I need to catch you up, quick. We cut a line around this old hill and hooked up with the Pine Mountaineers crew, your mom’s old party station. My crew, Iron Canyon Kings were with them when the USFS did a backfire that became a giant operation. It was not planned. (HAHAHA!) the small backfire kinda backfired. But it stopped the main front in the end. It was USFS’s game plan, but the vegetation was dryer than predicted and a bit of an uphill wind did more than expected. No one was hurt, but I don’t think the US Forest Ranger will handle a drip-torch like that again. HAHA! The backfire flared a bit more than planned and there were a few moments of a significant pucker-factor.”

She laughed. His stories of the fireline were always an adventure.

‟Anyway, we’re hiking again. We have three hours of steady walking to go, after that? I get on a bus and head back to the deployment area. We have been out here for two-weeks now and I expect the fire  will be fully contained by the end of our down-time. Three days before this all started, your mom said we were expecting you to join us in less than a year. This is simply awesome! Anyway. Not much to write as far as a letter goes. This little bit o’paper will get stuffed into a file somewhere along with many others I hope to write. Anyway. Love you, (baby boy or baby girl!) Dad.

PS. Need to get used to that now, don’t I?”

She missed him, wherever he was. The advertisement in the magazine for wildland firefighters to go to a third world country that was suffering from a severe drought and fires that were threatening to devastate the ecology and economy.

The large salary offered was too tempting to pass up. So Dad went when it was winter in the northern hemisphere to fight fires at the bottom of the world for six months.

And never came home.

A year later, a the government sent a half-dozen boxes back. The helicopter transporting firefighters crashed with only one broken radio call for help. The helicopter identifier called with ‟Mayday!” then silence. Destruction of the air transport was complete, some of the local war-clans had stripped the damaged aircraft and burned the rest without thought of reporting or even admission of involvement.

Of a dozen-firefighters and two pilots in the flight, the charred remains of the only ones that could be identified were in coffins.

The search and rescue reported that the area around the Blackhawk transport was:

‟Complete combustion of airframe and personnel.”

Official speak for nothing was left.

So she stood with a file folder of hand-written letters tucked into a handwritten book of spells, looking over the rail of the bridge and the (now empty) jar of ashes that an investigator liaison had collected at the scene and sent to the families. Five years since the helicopter went down, mom still talked as if he were just about to walk through the door. 

When she was younger, it made an odd sense of being closer to him and she was wishing she was a witch practicing “white magic” and had said a spell over a few hairs she had recovered from his bristle brush he used and some glitter that she scraped from the family portrait frame he made years ago. She and mom had a huge fight over that.

It was disrespectful, mom said through her tears.

It was the last time she tried any kind of magic, until now.  Now it was in the water, the final act of the complex spell.  She had one last thing to do, it was an immature effort, perhaps, but it was all she had.

Cassiopeia O’Danu dropped a yellow rose into the waters as they flowed out into the Pacific ocean with the second part of the complex spell spoken in Old Irish.

While Cassi watched the rose of remembrance float away to its destination. She included one wish after she finished with the spell she had read from the pages of her book. 

The wish? She had said it before, but anything to help increase the force of the spell of return.

‟Dad, come home.”

Dear Universe: Letters from the Past Chapter 1. A Letter from Dad.

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Dear Universe:

Letters from the past

Dash McCallen

1. A Letter From Dad

“I don’t know yet if you are a boy or a girl, but WELCOME to the family. I apologize for all the mistakes I will do and I will say it here and now– You don’t have an instruction book. I have asked your grampa a few things and all he has done is laugh that I will find out!”

She read on, the words written in business like block lettering with a pen on a notebook that looked as if it were written on a vibrating surface of the helicopter that he rode in.

“Right now, we are flying into the back country for a fire spotted by a mountain lookout. I am in a helicopter with eleven other firefighters, the person next to me is Linda Martinho and she says “Hi from the past!”. A nice lady, quite, pretty and tough as they come. (A secret, she is tough, but smallish, about the size of your gramma Ida). We are flying in to the fire lines, we have to cut lines around a big burn and… Will have to finish this later, we are landing now.”

The smell of smoke was still on the paper that was also stained with his perspiration after riding in his pocket for an unknown amount of time.

She held the paper to her nose and close her eyes. Imagining her dad young and strong. Appearing as he did in the pictures. Broad shouldered, smiling and covered in soot, ash and what looked like pink paint. He was handsome as they could come. Her mom always talked about how he looked in the cut-off jeans he wore in lieu of swim trunks, she almost always blushed and giggled like she must have when she was only eighteen.

Tall and red-headed. Her dad often told her stories about the history of their family with the joy of the legends of the O’Danu family dancing in the glittering green eyes. As she grew, his red hair became laced with white.  There was no middle ground with her personal hero.  Like him the hair would not find an in-between color of fading red. It was either red — or white.

Words on paper, really it was all she had now. The letters and the ash that the man in uniform gave her in a small jar.

The ash where the government suspected that everyone died and their bodies immolated in the fire that followed.

Cassie refused to believe it, she could not believe it!

NEVER!

Dad had promised her, and dad’s don’t break promises lightly.

World’s end, the universe would explode, but a dad making a promise to their child?

It was law, it was so.

Whispering to the universe, willing her dad to hear her voice and her heart.

Cassie poured the ash from the burned out helicopter into the waters of the outflowing bay while reading an old Druid chant of protection and return.

A chant she finished with a tear that dripped off her chin.

‟Dad, come home.”

 

Dragon Master University Chapter 5. The Ride

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Chapter 5. The Ride

 

“This insulated armor is for harsh environments, you better be getting yours on, too. You will stick out like a wart if you don’t wear the proper garments.” chuckled Aed.

Watching closely as his father picked up the over sized knife, his father looked him in the eye and then hit the side of his leg with the cruel cutting edge of the sword. Not so much as a dent in the material was left by the cutting edge. Smiling at his son at the strength of the armor that he had kept quiet for lo’ the many years that the son had come to join them. He helped Jona dress in his student armor.

Jona dressed, the leather smelled newly tanned, the touch of it made him feel like a warrior of his own, slightly taller than his auburn haired mother, his jerkin fit him perfectly, as if it was known that he would be wearing it.

“Come, son! Time to get going!” Dearbhail said. Her strong will reasserting itself once again. The family hiked out into a meadow outside of the village, past the Crannog used since as long as anyone could remember, should the wild men of the sea invade.

In the middle of the field, dimly lit by the two torches carried by the adults, Jona had the dubious task of carrying the heavy gold griddle, stood a large wicker basket, enough to carry perhaps as many as ten people and all their food, bedding and still have room left over for any animals they might want to bring.

The wicker was tightly woven, enclosed but for shuttered holes that served as windows to the outside. Aed opened the stout, side door and Jona could see the reclining seats inside. Just sitting there, Jona looked around for the cart or wagon that had brought it. Not quite understanding, he looked for a place to put down the bag that carried the heavy, gold cookware.

“What is this?” Jona asked, learning not to make comments, because the truth of the last few days made his wildest imagination pale in comparison.

“This, Jona, is our way to get to the school, we ride in it.” Aed said as he and Dearbhail climbed in. “Get comfortable, you will find your first lesson in dragons.”

Opening the top of the basket with a lever that telescoped the apex of the basket back to the sides so they could see out, his dad made a sound like he did when he was snoring, Aed seemed to make a whole sentence from the snorting and snoring sound.

Jona began to laugh at his dad, when there was the sound wind coming from the sky, no clouds, but as Jona looked up, the something blotted out the stars.  It… He could not believe it… It was the biggest flying thing that Jona had ever put his eyes on.

Jona squealed like a cat with its tail stepped on and he fell over backwards when he craned his neck to look up, great orange eyes looked down on them from the sky and wings that went from edge to edge of his vision he had to turn his head to see all the wingspan of the huge dragon that hovered over them as it sat down on the grass as lightly at a bird.

His face and eyes twitching as the lips of his mouth formed a big “O” without a sound when great orange eyes looked down on them from the sky and wings that went from edge to edge of his vision, he had to turn his head to see all the wingspan of the huge dragon that hovered over them as it sat down on the grass as lightly at a bird.

His face and eyes twitching as the lips of his mouth formed a big “O” without a sound.

After a few minutes, the only sound he heard was the rush of blood in his ears and a small funny sounding squeak like a squirrel made when caught in the claws of a hawk, only to come and realize that the squeak was coming from his own mouth, echoing laughter from far away was his own mother and father.

Aed stood over his spasm-riddled son and looked down with laughter as his wife roared with laughter, all the first time students that had seen their first full-sized dragon had same reactions— normally they passed out or ran away in panic.

“Jona, you did better than most kids! You at least stood your ground the first time you met the transport, even if you did a very good apoplexy dance before you fell, were you frozen or did you find it curious?” Aed laughed as he spoke to his son.

“Wahh-wahh-wahh-wahh-wahh…” Jona repeated for several minutes, until finally he complained that the weight of the gold platter was holding him down.

“Let go, son, let the bag go.” Dearbhail said, “It is not holding you down, you are holding yourself back from standing up.”

Jona suddenly realized he had a death grip on the bag that held the heavy gold platter to his shoulder, releasing it, he stood up with his eyes still fixed on the winged beast that sat quietly in front of him, A thought that struck Jona in his mind and he turned to his father with eyes as big as dinner plates.

“Y-y-y-y-” his voice faded away and he cleared his throat.

“Spit it out!” smiled Aed, “What are you trying to say, son?”

Jona looked around, the sun was breaking over the horizon, coloring the clouds crimson putting the dark, shimmering dragon that looked down at him with a bemused expression, its orange eyes still glowed in the early light.

“You speak dragon!?” Jona finally got out.

Aed chuckled as his mother rocked back and forth on the edge of the giant wicker basket.

“Of course we do. Yes! Both of us speak dragon, all two – hundred dialects. Your grandpa spoke more, but many dragons have disappeared out of the world.” Aed said.

The great dragon overhead nodded slowly and sadly. Seemingly to understand human speech.

“IT understands our language?” Jona choked out. His eyes looking at the shimmering creature.

“She does, as most dragons do. It takes years for us to learn their language, but they know ours easily. I will explain as we go, now IN the basket with you, we are losing our cover.” his father said with a smile. ‟The reclining seats. Keep the fur blankets close at hand.”

“Jona, get this jacket on, you will catch your death of cold otherwise.” His mother reverted back to her concern about her only son. “Hat on, too.”

A small cap that seemed familiar, but could not recall just where, he pulled it on. It was the same kind as the hat both his mother and father wore, with the exception that theirs had feathers in it. His mother’s was a white feather, his father’s was shimmering green.

“What are we going to do in this basket?” as they sat on snug, tightly woven reclining seats with odd metal hook and eye fastened straps that wrapped around their waist. “What are these for?”

“My own addition, we have had a few people fall out of the chairs over the years, this is my answer and seems to have been a good one.” his father answered.

“How do they fall out? What are weeeeeeee……” Jona never finished his question as he instead screamed while the great drago took flight and latched its massive claws on the crossbar of the great wicker basket and took flight lifting them off the ground rapidly, going up into the sky.

The elder Samhain’s laughed and their eyes shined with excitement as they gained altitude, the dragon lifted them up into the air and into the clouds. Their hair flying behind them as they held hands and enjoyed the ride.

“If you are going to regurgitate your breakfast, son, please lean out the window. ” Aed said with a laugh.

“I did not bring any change of under clothes for you, so you better keep control of your bodily functions!” Dearbhail yelled as she slapped her husband as she pointed down over the edge of the open window.

Below the sun shown on the harbor, the black ship of the day before was still at dock– high tide was not due for several hours, the crew of the ship was seemingly gathered on the breakwater with many of the locals standing around them as they seemed to entertain the people in the early morning light.

“That Master O’Danu has his crew out again.” Aed said. “I always like listening to them when I have time.”

“W-what?” Jona asked as he peeked over the side at the group of men on the ground far below.

“The sailors on the ship are also poets and artists. Often the sing at dockside a cappella at the end and beginning of the day. Sailors work hard during the day, morning and night in the slack tides they have time to show their stuff. Here, this morning they are singing on the docks.

‟Is he a Dragon Master?” Jona asked as he looked over the edge. His knuckles white as he gripped the wicker rail tightly.

‟Captain O’Danu? Yes. He was a few years behind us. That son of his will have a great surprise on his own, like you.” Dad said. ‟They spend a great deal of time on the water, Captain O’Danu trains water-dragons, water horses, sea nymphs and mer-folk. He keeps all the pirates in the area away from our harbor and makes sure we are left alone.”

‟He keeps pirates away?” Jona shook his head in disbelief. ‟How?”

‟Son, you noticed they had the ship painted differently?”

‟Yes, it was all black with some white.”

‟Yes, that is the ship Orca. Captain O’Danu is the Pirate King on our side of the world.”

‟On our side of the world?” Jona blinked. He had seen the red-headed captain several times as he had grown up. Never thinking that the ship that he was on was a pirate ship, or the crew who sang and brought smiles to merchants were all pirates.

‟Well, not a pirate in the typical sense. The Empire that has hunted him and his crew for years has labeled him that. He took the title after his ship defeated a pirate fleet in a three-on-one disadvantaged battle, pirates in the area called him King. He takes tribute from all of them, a few gold pieces each, but there are many of those that ply their trade on seas. A good man to have on your side.”

‟What about his son, is… I think his name is odd. Dana I think.

‟Oh yes, his boy Dana is too young yet, I would say. Unless he understands how to train puppies and has an open mind. Some children and adults cannot wrap their minds around a school with dragons.” Mom said. ‟It’s an old story on both sides. Those with limited education are given to hate more. It is what we try to change as a Dragon Masters.”

‟Why are you called Dragon Master if you are teacher?” Jona asked as the big wings of the orange dragon as it took a now-rare flap of leathery wings. The blast of wind was shocking, but bearable.

‟We have mastered the subjects to teach the two worlds how to live together.”

Quaint?  Did he ever think of his mom and dad as quaint?

They flew in a covered basket carried by a huge dragon without blinking an eye.  This was…

Jona decided he had a lot to learn.

By a large margin.

This was nothing like school was over the last few years.

Dragon Master University Chatpter 4. Dragon Master

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IV. Dragon Master

His father, a Dragon Master, laughing as he took a seat on the mandrel that he used to bend large metal objects to shape that he had wanted, suddenly became serious.

“You will be going to a school in the fall, after you learn a few more things on how to teach that new puppy to behave.”

“Why the puppy?” Jona asked

“Puppy dogs and baby dragons are similar in attitudes, but dragons are much more intelligent as they grow. Kind of like human babies. We all start out as drooling little lumps, but we get a bit older and then we pass the puppies on what we can think of. Dragons are the same way.”

Jona gaped at his father, his dad kept it quiet all these years. He never knew that his dad would be such a quiet legend.

Aed laughed again, “You know, ’tis where I met your ma.” he chuckled with glee at his son’s gape and shock. For a father, he had a great deal of good humor when it came to making his son learn.

“M-ma? You met ma at this school where you became a DRAGON MASTER AT?” Jona’s voice was getting louder as he spoke. “Does she know what you where there for?”

“Shhh…. our society is a quiet one. Not all of humanity is willing to accept that there are Dragon Master’s that teach dragons how to keep a low profile– and YES, your mother is also a Dragon Master. She’s licensed to teach baby and adult Dragons, just like me.” Aed smiled and cleared his throat proudly “And soon, you will too!”

“Now close your mouth before you catch a moth and get packed.” Aed said to Jona who stood there with his mouth hanging open.

“Heh, Jona my son, tomorrow we take you to the new school to find out your class schedule. With the fact you already have a dragon looking up to you, you will probably get into the training cycle first, rather than starting with the classroom teachings. I hope you get Melian Jewell, she taught me long ago. Very good with hands on– if you can keep your fingers attached.”

Aed stood up, Jona’s mouth once again was hanging open like he had something that had numbed his brain.

“Oh.” Was all the noise the teen could make at his father. “Oh.”

Aed was out of earshot by the time that the mouth was catching up with his brain as he staggered back to the wagon and climbed up. While he sat in the seat holding the reins, Jona tried to think for a minute, the information that his father had just told him was making him dizzy still.

“Jona, go home, your mother will know what to do, just tell her what we just talked about. Get a move on son! You have a lot to do!” Aed laughed, “You have time to act like a turnip later!”

Jona rode down the street when the dumb ox snorted out both ends again. the smell of flatulence brought him out of his reverie as he drove the wagon back to the house. His mom met him out in the yard, and she was smiling. “I have heard your father had spoken to you?”

Jona boggled, not for the first time in the recent past.

“How, who..where?” At least now his mouth was functioning with his brain, even if only in single words.

“You will need some good boots, lucky we had some on order for you from the cobbler. That you are of age and out of basic life school, now you learn how to truly learn how to live in the world. To keep the animals in it, not to do as some have in the past, exterminated simply by the rage of man and weapons.” Dearbhail said.

She shocked Jona with  the tone and style his mother used.  She was reciting all of history of barbaric treatment of the earth. She was a teacher and Dragon Master.

‟Mom, you are a dragon mistress?” Jona was able to get his first coherent sentence out since his father talked to him.

‟Dragon Master. There was some question, years ago, that mistress seemed to subordinate what we are. The female teachers outrank the males, regardless of how the word sounds. Dragons cannot be subjugated, but you will learn these things, women are the leaders in the dragon world. So it is with humans in their eyes.”

Aed came home, a sumptuous meal, grilled over the fires outside, filled the house with mouth-watering smells. Aed poured Mead for everyone. Father toasted son as Jona’s mother, though not sad at her son moving out, showed signs of being a mom for a change. The hard spirit of the Queen Boudica that lived on in his mom had softened at the thought of her son now going to her old Alma Mater.

“I never knew you were a Dragon Master, ma, you have never taught any dragons, have you?” Jona asked between mouthfuls of potato, boiled and then roasted with sea salt. “You have never spoke of it.”

“Well, we never would, would we?” She laughed, rolling up her sleeve. Her a tattoo graced her upper arm where a torque normally resided, often she wore the copper band, so Jona had thought over the years it was the green that had rubbed off into her skin, now as she had pulled off the copper torc, the tattoo moved and glistened as if made from real dragon scales. It looked as if it were several dragons holding each other by the tail in a complex, never-ending knot that was so intricate that Jona could swear it was alive.

“Only the alumnus of the university wear such tattoo’s.” Aed said in admiration, while Jona was looking closely at his mother’s body-art, his father pulled out his arm and presented the son with a view of his own tattoo. The count and the kinds of dragons were different, and somewhat darker.

“Your mother earned better grades than I did, but I was in a more challenged class of dragons. We had the dragons that would be considered difficult to teach, males normally, fire breathers.”

Jona laughed for a moment, then paused as he though of a question.

“Is that how you took to being a metal worker?”

Aed nodded. “Your mother came up with that idea, it makes a good cover story for the burns I get now and again when I have to teach a short-tempered dragon how to keep in hiding and not burn a house down that annoys him for one reason or another.”

Jona’s mouth dropped open again. Many times his dad came home with singed hair and had blisters on his hands, complaining that he had to get new gloves for the shop. Little did he realize that it might even been due to a fire-breathing dragon that the patriarch of the family had to teach.

Looking at his mother. “Why did you wear copper then? I mean, with all that you were doing, you should wear a gold torc.”

The smiling auburn haired mother sat down and looked first at Jona, then at Aed then back to Jona.

“Our goal was never to bring that much attention to ourselves.” She said with a soft smile. ”Yes, I could wear gold, but it would never explain the tattoo underneath. This way the copper would cover the tattoo, I could take it off as I wished and when teaching, like now.”

Jona suddenly realized that his parents were more than the quaint old folks from another generation who had no idea how the youth of today thought. Young people had greater challenges, he thought, it was they who would take the world next and make it a better place. But his parents— His, the mind reeled with the thought of what kind of changes they have done in the world.

His ma and dad had changed the world, saving the dragons from dragon slayer’s and their weapons.

Jona went to bed that night with a numb mind, school was starting in a few months and the old folks were just going to sign him up.

In the morning, the sun had not even illuminated the sky in the east when his dad woke him in the dark.

“Up! We have a lot of traveling to do. Get your breakfast in, yer ma has eggs cooked with shredded ‘taters. Up boy. Time is wasting!”

Staggering up, he pulled on some clothes, his mother had a great breakfast of three eggs and a potato fried on a griddle he had never seen in the house before. Barely stained, the yellow pan looked like brass.

“Gold, Jona, this is the traditional breakfast for first time visitors to the university, gold is the dragon’s vanity and gift. One reason they have had such a time just trying to exist, for people covet the yellow metal as much as dragons do.” Mama Samhain said gently. “Our guide brought the griddle to us just this morning. You get one more after this, after that, you are back on iron cooking.” his mother laughed quietly. “They draw you in by making you feel special, then beat your brains until you learn the lessons for that time when you serve both man and dragon and save both from obliterating each other.”

“Ob…oob ..What?” Jona could not get the word out of his mouth.

“Obliterate. Just think of if your uncle Rón when he sat on you when you were but ten-years-old.” Aed said with a crooked grin.

“Ach! No! I understand now. That is the last thing I want.” Jona gasped.

The breakfast continued with animated discussions on different dragons, dangerous kinds, water dragons, air dragons, fire dragons. Jona was beginning to have a headache. Care and feeding of each dragon was far different from the next.

Finally they finished breakfast, Aed washed the griddle while Dearbhail washed the other plates separately. The discussion between them was rapid and animated, the pride in their son was obvious.

Jona, stunned at the clothing that his máthair put out for him. Leather jerkin with iron studs, heavy leather gauntlets with oddly shaped finger coverings, boots that came up to his knees with chaps that fitted on his legs and clipped to the top of the boots. There were other rings on the jerkin and boots he wanted to ask about, but his mother and father disappeared up the ladder to the loft to change clothes. The sound of a slap and a mild threat was more information than Jona wanted to know about what his dad might have done.

Climbing down, the two elder Samhain clan were clad in leather and metal armor, his mother’s was decorated in gold and green rivets, his fathers was in silver, yellow and red-gold engraved metal flowers over the tunic, with iron and leather scabbards that held two short swords that crossed on his back. His mothers weapons, shorter and slimmer, much more pointed to the touch, had handles made of some creature’s tusks, as they were bone-white.

Pulling one of her swords, the light reflected over the mirrored surface of the blade. The metal rippled like water in the light and the edge was wavy, like the edge of a leaf.

His father drew a sword and set it on the table next to his mothers’ blade. Longer, more massive in construction, a blade for smashing through heavy objects, while his mother’s was one that might cut through the smallest weakness of opposing armor.

“These are the tools of Dragon Masters. Sometimes one must have the skills to fight either man or dragon and earn the respect. These weapons have different designs, each has a specific use and need when called upon. Where your father’s are for one kind of warrior, mine is for another. But each is not perfect, the two blades cover each other’s shortcomings of design.”

Jona stood slack-jawed as he watched the two most mundane, boring, simple folk that he’d ever known. He could even call them “quaint” by the past years he knew them. Now, the arms of his father, from years of swinging a hammer, the sinuous arms of his mother stuck out of the leather and steel armor– he had no other thought but that one moment he had come to realize most about his “mundane, quaint” old folks were members of a group that Jona never dreamed they could belong.

Unbeatable in the normal sense, mysterious— he never, ever knew of their second life.

His father was pulling on leggings that shimmered like water in a stream, on closer inspection they were fine scales, interlocked like fingers of two hands.

Mom and dad— they were awesome!

They were warriors.

They were Dragon Masters.

Dragon Master University Chapter 3. The Road Home

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III. The Road Home

Rumbling back over the road, the sun was no longer right overhead, quartering behind him, his headache was gone, no longer the flatulent ox made his belly flip-flop in his throat, he had began to look around more. Often the look around at the small birds now that flew from tree to tree and wheeled overhead.

One bird, fell from a tree, landing on the ground and Jona laughed slightly feeling sorry for the bird, but had no time to deal with the plight of the flying critter.

Jona trundled past the young bird, it made an odd noise, but then took wing, and Jona saw its shape appeared like no other bird he had ever seen.

It disappeared into a tree once again, Jona shook his head at the ugly bird, it must have been the power of the distilled spirits still messing with his eyes as he rode on in the wagon, the smell of the peat as he bounced down the path no longer bothering him as much as the time wore on.

Jona was feeling more like a person instead of the underside of the ox-hoof and promised himself no more drinking before finding out what the next day would bring. His ma and pa were known to have had tremendous parties and had a whole next day to rest— but had planned it far in advance.

A touch of wisdom, Jona nodded and heard a familiar sound. Turning his head, he saw that oddly shaped bird again as it flitted by, but Jona lost it in the sun as the erratic flying creature zipped past as he approached the harbor where the black ship docked.

The red hair of the captain was visible as it poked out from under a feathered cap as the blond-headed boy was standing on a pallet of goods, the crews used pulley’s and rope lifted into the ship. Oxen and men pulled on lines as Dana was making sure that the materials where staying on the platform. A netting, used to secure all the crates, while the captain stood below with his arms crossed and shook his head as he spoke to the raven haired woman standing next to him. She had secured the delivery and supervised the lading of the ship.

Looking over his shoulder, freedom of the sea seemed that it was an outstanding life. Positive that the boy, Dana, knew more and saw more than Jona ever would, stuck here on land with no prospects but to tinker on the metals. Even if it was a successful business, suddenly he wanted another life where he could make a change, effect something! Jona wanted a life that was greater than his dad’s.

Flitting by, the tiny bird once again drew Jona’s attention. He was positive it was the same creature, it had a pendulous tail and curious wings, longish neck.

But was fast!

Extremely fast!

Again, Jona lost it in the glare of the sun, it seemed to fly in big circles around the peat loaded wagon.

“Probably the bugs that seem to follow the smell, it’s catching and eating them.” Jona thought to himself. “At least there would be fewer flies when I offload this at the smite shop.”

Suddenly a sound behind him made him turn around. Pulling up on the reins, he stopped the ox which took that moment to rattle out its backside again with gas. Stupid ox, it snorted as much out its backside as it did out the nose.

Turning to look closely at the bird, it had its back to him. It was oddly colored, almost a purple-black color. Abruptly, It turned and looked at him. It had a lizard kind of face. Cat eyes that looked at him curiously.

It was a tiny DRAGON!

Jona stumbled backwards and fell off of the wagon and down into a puddle where the ox had just finished urinating. “UGH!” Jona yelled, the urine smelled worse than the gas that the ox put out. The ox snorted as if it knew and was laughing in the way that only an ox could.

The little dragon gave a squawk and took back to the air, munching on a beetle it found in the peat and sped off behind a bush.

Jona shook his head, distracted now as he scrambled away, once an ox urinated, the other was coming soon and Jona wanted no part of that on him. The urine smell was bad enough as he stood on his feet and shook the moisture off his hands and looked around. The little dragon was gone. No longer visible to the blinking Jona. How was he going to explain what he had seen to his parents?

“Maybe I will just not say a word, they will send me off to talk with the Draoi of the village. Ugh.” Jona commented to himself.

The Draoi were known to cure people from visions and bless things like crops. But it would always take days, often consuming bitter herbs to cure anything from constipation to diarrhea to people with headaches to swelling of feet.

Clambering back into the wagons bench seat, Jona kept an eye out for the little dragon, seeing it every once in a while, it was not bothering the ox or him, precisely, but it was very definitely following him. It was not a chance meeting, the dragon was just a baby, it looked like, but was not near a mother.

“MOTHER!” He gasped in panic. Oh no, if the baby dragon had a mother, Jona was in dire trouble. All they might find of Jona and the ox would be charred bones or might not even find them at all. The boy began to look around rapidly for the telltale signs of impending attack. Birds taking wing or no sounds in the world as the lesser animals would hide from an attacking dragon.

Jona had never seen an attack, only in stories and legends were they told about. His dad, Aed would tell of how the dragons had nearly been driven into extinction by openly living with the humans who would hunt many for the actions of a few.

“Dragons are intelligent” Aed would tell Jona, “They learn and know, they are by and large, peaceful, like a raptor of the sky– they will eat fish or, in the cases of large dragons, oxen or whales of the sea. They had to learn to avoid humans, thus some needed teaching. It was humans that helped teach dragons of how humans lived and how they can see. These men and women became known as Dragon Masters.”

Jona once dreamed of being a Dragon Master, but in time grew up and figured out that all that his dad told him were stories to entertain a child. He had even stopped believing in dragons. But here, a small one was following his very steps as he made his way back home.

Jona took a moment and thought about heading back to the harbor and the black ship for protection, but that would have taken nearly as long as the remaining trip back home. Nowhere was there a sign of a mother dragon to follow the baby or make an attack. People worked in the fields, birds were flitting behind them, eating worms that would be tilled up or to eat the bugs on the grain.

As he entered the home village, he kept an eye out for the small dragon, he had not seen it for nearly an hour, the sun had angled down and the shadows were long. He could hear the hammer blows of his dad’s shop as he drew closer. Curly reddish hair, two bright blue eyes that looked out from a soot smeared face as Aed laughed as Jona made his way to the back of the shop. Always happy to see his son, the smiter directed the apprentices to continue the rough work of the current project.

“Da’, the seller says he owes you two more loads, it would be ready when you are to pick it up.” Jona told his father. “There was no problems, but ma was not in a good mood this morning, she woke me up too early”

The senior Samhain laughed, his hair shook with the good humor of a father with his only son learning how the world really works with the mother in charge.

“Okay, let’s off load the peat over there, Jona, I will send out the apprentices to help you, I have a gold torque to make for someone and I trust no one to do it, I have the idea what they want on the band.” Aed said as he turned away to go back into the shop.

A flit across the sky, Jona decided now was as good of a time as ever.

“Dad, I have seen something you need to know, I think it is serious.” Jona said loudly after his father.

Aed motioned to the junior apprentices who mounted the wagon and began offload bricks of the fuel and walked over to his son and sat down on a mandrel he had made years before. Motioning his son to sit, the elder no longer laughed, taking in his son’s look as a young man with something that was serious in his mind to tell his father.

“I am kind of afraid to tell you, but..” Jona trailed off.

“Spit it out boy, I have known you all your days, you never tell me to wait unless it is serious and important to your heart.” Suddenly a concerned father than a laughing friend.

“Dad, on the way back, I think I saw a dragon– a baby dragon. I’m worried that the stories you told me of the mother dragon that might attack for stealing her baby might come true.” Jona said quietly, he did not want to let the other boys hear him and laugh.

Aed looked at him for a moment, then with wide-eyed concern his father asked. “What did the dragon do?”

Jona, shocked that there was no question of whether he had even seen– just what the actions of the baby did.

“He, well, he ate some bugs as we traveled, took them out of the load of peat.” Jona said slowly.

Aed Samhain began to smile. “Jona, you may not know what this means, but by the good grace of fates, you are going to have a life that you never dreamed of! The dragon chose you to go to a school I once went to.”

Standing up and walking to a bucket of water, his father washed his arms clean of soot and sweat. cleaning the tattoos that entertained him as a boy were still in bright relief.

“These are the marks of a graduate of the school of dragon masters.” Aed told Jona who gaped at his dad’s words.

His father was a Dragon Master!

A teacher of dragons, a group of storied and legendary people who hid and protected dragons since the dawn of stories. Who had taught the dragons how to hide, how to tell the difference between those that would help and those who would harm or seek to harm any of their kind.

They were the go between’s of the world of dragons and the world of man.

“You?” Jona had trouble getting his thoughts to gather in one statement. “You? Taught? Dragons?”

He shook his head at the thought of his dad as a Dragon Master?

Wow.